Congress: Trump has never lived the life he deserved. But after evading accountability for the immoral, unethical and illegal, he was finally hit by an asteroid.
You know it’s wrong to smile. But there’s a satisfaction watching the schoolyard bully get his teeth knocked in.
Donald Trump has never lived the life he deserved. In the 1970s, he was sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments to African Americans. Still, he became a billionaire real estate developer.
Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, reduced presidential politics to a round of kindergarten name-calling and courted a foreign adversary to hack his political opponent’s emails. Still, he was elected the most powerful man in the world.
As president, Trump: stocked his administration with crooks and cronies, used the presidency to further his family’s financial interests, bribed a foreign ally for personal gain, and hired a morally bankrupt attorney general to swat righteous efforts to stop him from barreling into a black hole and pulling American democracy behind him. Still, he maintained a base of undaunted followers who stand a good chance of giving him four more years to do it all again.
Congress: Brazen, corrupt and impeachable
And so, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally gave the political nod that unleashed the forces of Reps. Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler, the impeachment hearings they presented were a sight to behold. The parade of witnesses included diplomats, State Department officials,Trump’s former top Russia expert, and a National Security Council aide who was awarded the purple heart for injuries he received while serving in the U.S. Army.
During two weeks of damning testimony, Schiff peeled back the curtain on a bribery scheme that was as brazen as it was corrupt. Trump withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to squeeze Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to fabricate dirt on Trump’s political rival Joe Biden. Adding insult to injury, Trump also demanded that Ukraine take the fall for Russia’s interference in our 2016 presidential election.
Nadler then tied the evidentiary ends of the bow together with constitutional experts who testified that Trump’s efforts at bribing Ukraine, and obstructing congressional oversight, were unequivocally an abuse of presidential power and impeachable. Professor Michael Gerhardt, who teaches law at the University of North Carolina, summed things up this way: “If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable.”
When the Schiff-Nadler tag team was done, only congressional Republicans, Fox News, Trump’s most cultish base and those who protect themselves from mind control with tinfoil hats were left with any doubt the president had committed serious misconduct.
Then came the articles of impeachment, charging Trump with abusing his power in the Ukraine shakedown and obstructing Congress’ investigation with a lawless blockade of evidence and witnesses.
Congress: Democrats’ caution vindicated
We can quibble about whether there should have been an additional article of impeachment incorporating special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. Many wanted Trump held responsible as the arsonist who set the house on fire in order to obstruct the Russia investigation. But a recent Fox News poll showing support for impeachment holding strong, at 54% of U.S. adults, lends credence to the House leadership’s decision to proceed cautiously.
On Wednesday, it happened. Donald J. Trump, America’s 45th president, was impeached. The man who played by his own rules, successfully dodging accountability for the immoral, unethical and illegal, was finally hit by an asteroid. Trump is one of only three presidents to be impeached. And he now holds the dishonorable distinction of being the only president in American history to be impeached in his first term.
First, a sobering acknowledgement that Trump’s impeachment reflects a sad time for our country. The U.S. House of Representatives found that the man elected to lead our nation abused his power for personal gain and obstructed legitimate efforts to uncover and end the abuse. That’s not something to be happy about.
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But things are more complex than that.
Republicans have frequently accused Democrats of wanting Trump impeached since the day he took office. We’ve all witnessed the politically expedient response: eye roll, expression of shock and firm denial. And I’m regretting my forthcoming admission as I type it. But those Republican accusations? They’re true. As Chief Justice John Roberts read the oath of office to Trump, my thoughts were of impeachment. Not because I’m a Democrat and Trump is a Republican; I never contemplated impeachment during the Bush dynasty years.
Congress: I did want Trump impeached on Day 1
Impeachment was on my mind because on the day he was inaugurated, our new president had already: confessed to grabbing women’s genitalia, stoked bigotry against Mexicans and Muslims, encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap” out of protesters, bilked ordinary Americans with his fraudulent “Trump University,” mocked a disabled reporter, asked Russia to intervene in our election, and lied about things big and small in a way that appeared pathological.
The past month of congressional testimony did not teach me Trump was unfit to be president; it confirmed what ample evidence had already established.
And so, yes, from Day One I wanted Trump impeached. If other Democrats and never-Trump conservatives are being honest, many felt the same way. In most columns, this is where the writer would express a measure of contrition for admitting his support of impeachment long before any impeachment hearing began. But I’m not contrite. Or ashamed. I’m elated.
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To the members of Congress who persisted despite ignored subpoenas, presidential claims of a “witch hunt” and the blowhard virulence that characterized the GOP impeachment defense; to the news media that continued to uncover corruption despite being labeled an “enemy of the people”; and to the people who rose from the 2016 presidential ashes and worked their butts off donating, campaigning and voting in a Democratic House majority that did what history called on it to do: To all of you, job well done.
Yes, the next weeks will likely bring the stomachache that comes from eating too much of anything this delicious. While I was dreaming of impeachment, Senate Republicans were dropping their spines and integrity at the 2016 inaugural coat check. And so, when they abdicate their loyalty to country and Constitution, and vote to acquit the president of all he has done, it will be a sad day.
But today, in this moment in time, we should revel in the knowledge that our democracy, as it was intended to be, still exists and still works.
Michael J. Stern, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, was a federal prosecutor for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelJStern1
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