Last year, one of us wrote a piece for The Salt Lake Tribune about the importance of protecting the integrity of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Our and others’ concerns about President Trump’s disrespect for the American electoral process – not to mention his lack of an identifiable moral compass – have only grown in recent months. That report laid out an unarguable case that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, which is also the unanimous conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community.
We now know that Trump extorted Ukraine, a U.S. ally with critical strategic value in a tumultuous region, in an attempt to gain an edge on a domestic political opponent. While the president and his supporters have attempted to hide behind false claims about the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation, this time around Congress has an opportunity and duty to uncover the truth as the American public looks on.
As we continue to hear testimony from distinguished career diplomats and decorated armed service members, the search for the truth must be the top priority of Congress. Presidential invitations to foreign nations to dig for dirt on American political candidates cannot be tolerated by voters, let alone by Congress. Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s math was shockingly clear: two-plus-two equals four.
Unfortunately, rather than seize an opportunity to protect the American public, our Constitution and the nation’s reputation abroad, some Republican members of Congress have wrongfully made this a raw, partisan issue. Blind support of the president is an indefensible choice of self-interest above their oath of office, and it’s not lost on Americans who still believe in the importance of upholding our nation’s foundational principles. While many Republican representatives claim to champion the Constitution, their actions paint a different story – a disregard for the obligations this founding document so clearly outlines.
These have not been the only false patriots exposed over the course of the impeachment investigation. The White House’s despicable denigration of Purple Heart recipient Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is unsurprising. During Vindman’s testimony, the official White House Twitter account questioned his integrity, a real time indication of just how low this administration is willing to stoop in attempts to discredit credible threats. Others have been unrestrained in calling him a traitor, a spy, and oh, he’s also Jewish.
Vindman is a war hero whose commitment to the United States left him wounded by a roadside bomb while protecting our nation’s freedom, pitted against a president whose “bone spurs” kept him out of the Army, and who has actively sought to subvert the sanctity of our democratic institutions. We are at a new low in our nation’s discourse.
This investigation has proven to be rife with partisan bickering, witness tampering and unfounded accusations levied against civil servants who protected America’s reputation long before the president left the world of reality television to pursue the White House.
But Congress can – and must – correct course. If extortion by predicating foreign aid assistance on providing campaign dirt, and then refusing to explain that to Congress is not the kind of conduct the framers made impeachable, what is?
We, the voters, cannot let partisanship get in the way of the truth. Anyone following the Ukraine story, or any of the president’s transgressions for that matter, understands that this is about far more than the future of the Republican Party. The integrity of our nation is on the line, from our legal institutions to the continuation of a constitutional republic that once made us the envy of the world.
The Constitution not only represents the founding values of our nation but outlines key separations of power that validate and require the current inquiry. The leadership ethos of a military officer includes this admonition: “If an officer winks at any depredation by his men, it is no different than if he committed the act.”
Lt. Col. Vindman understands this. Does our Congress?
David Irvine is a Salt Lake City attorney, a lifelong Republican and a former Utah legislator.
Paul Mero is a lifelong Republican and president of Next Generation Freedom Fund.