The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Why the House’s impeachment of Trump was proper and necessary

President Trump at the White House on Tuesday.
President Trump at the White House on Tuesday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

THE HOUSE of Representatives’ impeachment of President Trump on Wednesday was proper and necessary. Mr. Trump withheld a White House meeting and U.S. military aid in an attempt to force Ukraine’s president to aid his reelection campaign. This was a gross abuse of his office that Congress could not allow to go unpunished. Nor could it acquiesce in Mr. Trump’s stonewalling a constitutionally authorized inquiry with a blanket refusal to cooperate with lawful subpoenas for documents and the testimony of senior aides.

The latest Trump impeachment updates

Whether or not a Senate trial leads to his conviction and removal from office, Mr. Trump has deservedly suffered an indictment imposed on only two previous American presidents. The two articles of impeachment reinforce essential, and what should be self-evident, norms of our democracy: that presidents cannot use their powers to extort political favors from foreign governments, and that they cannot comprehensively reject congressional checks. That Mr. Trump denied all wrongdoing made the House action only more necessary.

The vote to impeach was difficult and politically risky for many Democrats. Some who won seats only last year in swing districts carried by Mr. Trump acknowledged they might be endangering their careers. Representatives such as Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) deserve credit for putting their allegiance to the Constitution over political calculations.

The House of Representatives voted on Dec. 18 to impeach President Trump on charges that he abused his office and obstructed Congress. (Video: The Washington Post)

The absence of Republican votes for impeachment, in contrast, revealed the party’s fundamental corruption by Mr. Trump. Though some GOP representatives have acknowledged that the president’s actions were improper, none were principled enough to break with him. Many cravenly adopted Mr. Trump’s indefensible position that there was nothing wrong with the pressure campaign he directed at Ukraine’s neophyte president.

Mr. Trump himself set the tone for his defense with a ranting, falsehood-packed letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in which he repeated the proven lie that Joe Biden sought the dismissal of a Ukrainian prosecutor to protect his son and the Ukrainian gas company that employed him. Even as he faced impeachment, Mr. Trump was still pursuing the primary aim of his extortion of the Ukrainians — to smear his potential 2020 opponent.

The president’s refusal to acknowledge error and the likelihood that he will continue to violate democratic norms make imperative a full and impartial Senate trial of the charges against him. Unfortunately, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has made clear that he has no intention of allowing such a trial. Bluntly declaring that “I’m not an impartial juror,” Mr. McConnell indicated Tuesday that he will seek a vote of dismissal on the charges against Mr. Trump before allowing any testimony — even though crucial witnesses to Mr. Trump’s behavior, including former national security adviser John Bolton and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, have never been heard from.

That ought not to be acceptable to Republicans who have criticized Mr. Trump’s behavior, such as Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), or those who have said they will take their duty as jurors seriously, such as Sen. Susan Collins (Maine). They should tell Mr. McConnell they cannot judge Mr. Trump’s guilt or innocence until they have heard those firsthand accounts Mr. Trump has tried to suppress. Republicans have accused Democrats of cheapening the impeachment remedy, but if they fail to hold a credible trial of the serious charges against Mr. Trump, it is they who will damage our constitutional system.

Read more:

Dana Milbank : As Trump is impeached, Trumpism prevails

Karen Tumulty: Impeachment is different this time. The script is already written.

The Post’s View: The case for impeachment

Ann Telnaes: The little, little president is impeached

Jon Meacham and Michael E. Shepherd: Republicans face political risks on impeachment. But history shows not all is lost.

Henry Olsen: Partisan impeachment will only add fire to our ideological warfare

David Von Drehle: If I owned a time machine, I’d send House Democrats to 1915

The latest commentary on the Trump impeachment

Looking for more Trump impeachment coverage following the president’s acquittal?

See Dana Milbank’s Impeachment Diary: Find all the entries in our columnist’s feature.

Get the latest: See complete Opinions coverage from columnists, editorial cartoonists and the Editorial Board.

Read the most recent take from the Editorial Board: It’s not over. Congress must continue to hold Trump accountable.

The House impeachment managers weigh in in an op-ed: Trump won’t be vindicated. The Senate won’t be, either.

Stay informed: Read the latest reporting and analysis on impeachment from the Post newsroom.

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