Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, then repeatedly demanded that U.S. diplomats extract a public statement from Mr. Zelensky promising those investigations. Gordon Sondland, an ambassador appointed by Mr. Trump who spoke to the president repeatedly about the matter, testified that his conclusion that military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on Mr. Zelensky’s compliance was “as clear as ‘two plus two equals four.’ ”
The account has some gaps, but they are the direct result of the White House’s interference, which prevented the testimony of a dozen present or former senior officials and the release of documents by the White House, the Office of Management and Budget, and three Cabinet departments. The report rightly warns that “this unprecedented campaign of obstruction” poses a serious threat to U.S. democracy: “The damage to our system of checks and balances . . . will be long-lasting and potentially irrevocable if the President’s ability to stonewall Congress goes unchecked.”
The Republican account could not be more different. It brazenly reiterates proven falsehoods and conspiracy theories that the U.S. intelligence community has identified as Russian disinformation. It claims that Mr. Trump was genuinely concerned about Ukrainian corruption, even though he never raised it with Mr. Zelensky, and that he was only “prudent” in holding up military aid for “a thoughtful review,” even though the hold continued long after an interagency study unanimously recommended that the aid be released.
The Democratic report lacks direct testimony of Mr. Trump confirming the quid pro quo he was demanding, though it cites a public statement by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to that effect. It also acknowledges “unanswered questions.” Among other matters, there are disturbing indications that Mr. Trump may have successfully extorted the previous Ukrainian government. While saying the intelligence committee’s investigation will continue, the Democrats argue that they are unable to wait to refer the impeachment case to the Judiciary Committee because of the “threat of further presidential attempts to solicit foreign interference in our next election.”
While that fear is not unwarranted, the speedy referral smacks of political expediency. The Judiciary Committee may well have enough evidence to draw up articles of impeachment. But the witnesses and documents that Mr. Trump is improperly blocking might well provide a fuller and, to many Americans, more persuasive picture of his guilt — and American democracy cannot afford for Congress to fail to establish its right to obtain them. The fight for them must not be given up.