It’s long been clear that if the President is driven from office it will only be by the voters in November 2020. Trump has overseen and catalyzed a decisive pivot by the GOP toward authoritarian rule and illiberal politics. Trump will always have 30-something Republican senators who will maintain him in office no matter what crimes he commits or how he violates his oath of office. But we’ve now reached an impasse, a critical juncture at which the House of Representatives, controlled by a party that still supports the rule of law, has no choice but to dramatically intensify its oversight efforts up to and including voting on articles of impeachment against the President. The very premise of democratic government and the rule of law is under active attack by a lawless President.
President Trump came to power through corrupt means. He has systematically violated his oath of office since becoming President. He is now actively plotting to subvert the 2020 election using his powers as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and head of state to coerce a desperate ally to intervene in the 2020 election on his behalf. Such an abuse of power is so total and so grave that any equivocation in branding it criminal and unacceptable in the American system simply cannot be justified. It is all the more so since it is not retrospective. Nor does it turn on mere pecuniary corruption. It is a conspiracy to subvert the American people’s one chance to end his tenure in office. In other words, it is an attack on the one failsafe in the constitutional system: facing voters in a free and fair election.
Critics of the House Democratic leadership have greatly underestimated the limitations on congressional power with an executive who simply rejects the entire concept of legitimate congressional oversight. Congress has no army or police. It relies largely on the constitution and the courts to compel some degree of good faith engagement and respect for the constitution. A flat no to any and all oversight simply means years of process in the courts and thus presidential impunity. We still don’t know the totality of what happened. Based on what we know the only proper response is to demand the President’s immediate resignation. Since he certainly won’t agree, an immediate investigation framed around the question of impeachment must be undertaken and if the facts are what they appear the President must be impeached.
Will he be removed from office in the Senate? Almost certainly not. It’s not at all clear to me that the Senate will even allow a trial. Perhaps that is a feature of this historical moment rather than a bug since President Trump should also be driven from office by the American voter. But this kind of brazen abuse of power merits the gravest form of constitutional sanction. And that is impeachment.