Washington • Everyone here is keyed up for the Big One.
The One that’s going to finally bring Donald Trump down.
As soon as the news broke Wednesday night in The Washington Post that a whistleblower had accused the president of making some sort of nefarious “promise” during a call to a foreign leader, the hive erupted.
Democrats haven’t been able to get Trump on paying off a porn star to protect his campaign. They haven’t been able to get him on being a Russian agent. They haven’t been able to get him on obstruction of justice.
But maybe this time. Maybe this was the One where all would decide that they wanted impeachment, that the president’s behavior was so outrageous that they couldn’t imagine this sleazy business guy sitting in the Oval Office playing a tinpot dictator in a tinfoil hat for another second.
Maybe this was the One that would finally move Republicans to turn on the Grendel who is terrorizing the village and gulping down their party.
Certainly, Trump himself didn’t think so. As the capital was going into overdrive-freak-out mode Friday night trying to flesh out the whistleblower story, the president was busy tweeting about a children’s book by a Fox News host: “Buy this Book — great for the kids!”
If House Democrats can ever get their paws on the whistleblower, maybe they can make up for the Judiciary Committee’s performance with Corey Lewandowski this past week, which left many wondering if these hearings designed to pry Trump out of office are just making Democrats look foolish. They certainly provide an ample platform for Trump loyalists to rail against their favorite deep state foils.
When failed presidential candidate Eric Swalwell tried to get Lewandowski to read a message Trump had dictated to him, the witness nastily referred to the Democrat as “President Swalwell” and told him to read the message himself.
The internecine strains between the impeach-now Nadler crowd and the get-him-out-in-2020 Pelosi crew grew more bitter. Politico reported that in a closed-door meeting, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shocked lawmakers and aides by harshly criticizing the House Judiciary Committee staffers for propelling the impeachment effort far beyond where the Democratic caucus stands.
“And you can feel free to leak this,” Pelosi said acidly.
In an interview with NPR, she said she hadn’t changed her mind on impeachment, but she does think Congress should pass new laws so future presidents can be indicted. She said everyone had now seen what the founding fathers could not imagine: a president blatantly abusing the Constitution he has sworn to protect.
Trump has certainly been working hard to prove Pelosi right that presidents should not ever be above the law.
By Friday night, while Trump was readying for a state dinner with his ultraconservative pal from down under, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, The Wall Street Journal and the Times were reporting that the secret whistleblower complaint involved this: Trump repeatedly pressured President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine — about eight times, the Journal said — to work with Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s loony personal lawyer, to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.
Giuliani has been pushing a story about the former vice president and his son, who had ties to a Ukrainian oligarch.
After a fair bit of babbling on Chris Cuomo’s CNN show, Giuliani spit out some truth, that he asked Ukrainians to look into the Bidens. Later he tweeted: “A President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job.”
Crooked Donald thinks he can create a Crooked Joe narrative just like he created a Crooked Hillary one. Which is it, Donald: Crooked or Sleepy?
So just consider this: Around the same time that Trump escaped the noose after Robert Mueller’s tepid testimony, sliding away from charges that he colluded with a foreign country to interfere in our election, he began arm-twisting another foreign country to interfere in our election.
“Questions have emerged,” the Times said, “about whether Mr. Trump’s push for an inquiry into the Bidens was behind a weekslong White House hold on military aid for Ukraine. The United States suspended the military aid to Ukraine in early July, according to a former American official.”
So the president is under suspicion of making like Nixon and abusing power to go after his enemies, saying it would be a shame if anything happened to that military aid that you want because you don’t dig up some dirt on the son of my political rival.
The administration kept the whistleblower’s complaint from Congress, even though Congress has the legal authority to know what this urgent complaint is about.
Pelosi issued an acerbic statement Friday, noting that Joseph Maguire, acting director of national intelligence, was violating the law by refusing to disclose the complaint to Congress.
“If the president has done what has been alleged, then he is stepping into a dangerous minefield with serious repercussions for his administration and our democracy,” she said.
Trump is literally acting like an international mobster. Roy Cohn would be so proud.
So is this the Big One? We don’t know because so much has come before. But if it is? Now that would be big.
Maureen Dowd is a Pulitzer Prize-winning Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times.