The stunningly consequential accusation spelled out in the Democrats’ impeachment report represents the most sweeping effort yet to capture the span of President Donald Trump’s alleged offense and to boil it into a crisp indictment.
In effect, the 300-page House Intelligence Committee summary of witness testimony, timelines and phone records accused Trump of perpetrating one of the most serious political crimes in the history of the United States.
The report is a roadmap toward formal articles of impeachment — an argument to a nation split in two on Trump’s political fate that there is no alternative but to remove him from office 11 months before the next general election over his pressure on Ukraine for political favors.
The stark charge that the House Judiciary Committee will take up in its first impeachment hearing Wednesday fits the gravity of Congress’ most somber duty — deciding whether to end a presidency.
It is that the 45th President presents an immediate, clear and future threat to American national security, the Constitution and the resilience of the republic’s democratic self-governance itself.
“We should care about this, we must care about this, and if we don’t care about this, we can darn well be sure the President will be back at it doing this all over again,” House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, said Tuesday.
For all the all-consuming clamor of two-month-old impeachment intrigue and the vicious political crossfire, Wednesday’s hearing represents a dark moment in America’s story.
An attempt to oust a sitting President has only got this far three previous times, and impeachment typically opens political sores that infect the nation’s political life for decades.
Yet as momentous as the current situation is, it’s hardly a surprise. From its first hours, Trump’s presidency has torn at the conventions of his office, rejected constraints that his predecessors accepted and barged into the boundaries of the law. Impeachment has often seemed like a logical consequence.
The seriousness of the charge belies the shallow partisan battles that erupted over Trump’s alleged Ukraine scheme. It is far more detailed than the 123-page prebuttal sent out Monday by the GOP House minority — that did not dismantle the facts laid out by Democrats but argued that Trump’s magisterial conduct was perfectly within bounds.
And it is a more coherent exercise than Trump claimed Tuesday in a tirade in London, in which he blasted Schiff as a “deranged human being.”
The House Judiciary Committee will assume responsibility for driving the Democratic investigation toward its apparently inevitable halfway house — a vote to make Trump the third impeached President in the full chamber by Christmas.