Tribune Editorial: Impeachment must go forward, more in sorrow than in anger

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais | AP file photo) A member of the audience holds a copy of the Whistle-Blower Complaint letter sent to Senate and House Intelligence Committees during testimony by Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019.

“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

- Winston Churchill

Leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives have made a correct decision to do their constitutional duty and look into credible evidence that the president of the United States has been abusing his power for personal and political gain.

This is not a cause for celebration or condemnation. It is just what they should be doing. Calmly and with all deliberate speed.

And it is the president who has brought us to this place.

The president’s conversation with his opposite number in Ukraine, as detailed in a transcript released by the White House Wednesday, was clearly, in the words of Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, “deeply troubling.”

It is difficult to read the document without coming to the conclusion that our president wanted their president to not only produce damaging information about one of the leading Democrats in the 2020 election, former Vice President Joe Biden, but also to undermine the prosecution of one of our president’s smarmiest political allies, Roger Stone.

And to do so with an implied threat that, if the Ukrainian leader refused to play ball with the president, critical military aid, approved by Congress, would be held up.

It is even more troubling to hear the administration’s excuses for covering up a report filed by an intelligence community whistleblower, a report that, by law, was owed to Congress long ago.

The president and his allies, sadly including Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Chris Stewart, continue to claim that there was nothing untoward about the conversation. Just as they seem to have no problem with the fact that the Russian government clearly meddled in the 2016 election and with uncontroverted charges that the president’s personal business empire continues to benefit from lavish spending by leaders of Saudi Arabia, among other nations.

These abuses of presidential power cannot be excused as diplomatic exercises or national security hardball, high-level things that normal people just wouldn’t understand.

The United States was not made stronger or more secure by any of this. Its security and position in the world have been seriously undermined by a pattern of behavior that shows our president using his power to swap favors with the leaders of other nations in ways that add to his own bottom line — and boost his reelection chances — in ways that do not benefit the United States or its allies.

Rep. Ben McAdams, the only Democrat in Utah’s congressional delegation, continues to eschew the word “impeachment.” But he quite properly has pointed out the need, “to get all the facts on the table before deciding how to proceed.”

McAdams, a Democrat representing a Republican-majority district, may be forgiven for wanting to parse language. But the fact is that the way to “get all the facts on the table” is to do what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has now authorized, an impeachment investigation by the House.

Ideally, such a probe would be as sober as such a thing can be in today’s politically charged climate. Its duty would be to put all relevant information and testimony before the people out of, in Mr. Jefferson’s words, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.

This will be difficult, more difficult than it was for previous impeachment proceedings involving Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, because today’s social media universe and 24-hour news cycle do not lend themselves to deliberation. They encourage filtering information by political prejudice and the expectation that an issue raised by Wolf Blitzer will be forgotten by the time Anderson Cooper comes on.

Some will object that a real impeachment investigation will suck all the air out of the political room and make it impossible for Congress to do anything else. But Congress has already proven itself to be inert and useless about most matters.

A properly done investigation could at least remind Congress of its constitutional role in overseeing the doings of the federal government and, even if no articles of impeachment are issued by the House or lead to a conviction in the Senate, let the people know what has happened and which members of Congress care.