To impeach or not to impeach. To impeach himself, or not to impeach himself.
These were all $60 million questions (value-adjusted for inflation) just 24 hours ago. Now it seems all are answered — in the affirmative.
President Donald Trump has practically begged impeachment — sometimes even willingly — since before he accepted the office that he really didn't expect to win in 2016. And why not? Looking ahead to 2020, he is behind in the polls to several Democratic contenders — especially former Vice President Joe Biden.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has slow-walked impeachment because it's "bad for the country" (read here — the Senate won't do its part and the result might add rocket fuel to Trump's re-election campaign). But late Tuesday afternoon, the speaker did at long last announce a formal impeachment inquiry.
Last year, the Democrats dragged their feet after the public — misled for weeks by Trump's attorney general's mischaracterization of the Mueller investigation findings — didn't barnstorm for impeachment.
Pelosi's reticence has prodded Trump to need another "poor me" edge. And what better way to court another impeachment chorus than to drag the top Democratic front-runner's name through the mud as he gambles on martyrdom to be his ticket back into office?
Sure enough, the newest push erupted over recent days.
Last month, a whistle-blower in the White House working for the intelligence community filed a complaint reportedly indicating that the president made inappropriate promises to a foreign leader. The whistle-blower, who has not been identified, alerted the inspector general of the intelligence community. The complaint so alarmed the inspector general that he labeled it a matter of "urgent concern" and alerted the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire.
But Maguire, a temp worker, isn't following the law, which says he "shall" deliver an inspector general's report about an "urgent concern" to Congress within a week of receiving it.
Since then, reporting from The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press has unraveled a sordid chain of events.
Trump pressured Ukraine to smear Joe Biden, and at the same time our president withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine that had been voted on and allocated by Congress. It was 2016 dirt-on-his-opponent foreign collusion (yes, the legal word is conspiracy) all over again for 2020. Election interference 2.0.
Let this soak in. The Republican president of the United States personally ordered acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to freeze more than $391 million in aid to Ukraine just days before he pressed the new Ukrainian president to investigate the son of the Democrats' leading presidential candidate. At the same time, Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was in the Ukraine also pushing for election dirt on Biden's son, Hunter. The younger Biden was for a time on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company. Trump and Giuliani have since acknowledged all of this in quips to various reporters.
Over recent days, the tenor for impeachment rose. Trump tweeted Tuesday: "I am currently at the United Nations representing our Country, but have authorized the release tomorrow of the complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript of my phone conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine. ... You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call. No pressure and, unlike Joe Biden and his son, NO quid pro quo! This is nothing more than a continuation of the Greatest and most Destructive Witch Hunt of all time!"
Same song, same chorus.
But where's the whistle-blower complaint, which is what Congress really wants? The complaint reportedly is far more evidentiary — showing a pattern of action — than one phone call is likely to be. Trump and his people are still refusing to follow the law and turn over the complaint. Meanwhile, an attorney for the whistle-blower says he (or she) wants to speak to the House Intelligence Committee.
For his part, candidate Joe Biden, who some argue could be hurt worse than Trump by further inquiry into the Ukraine mess, says the Bidens did nothing wrong — so bring it on.
"Denying Congress information to which it is constitutionally entitled and obstructing its efforts to investigate actions is not the conduct of an American president. It is an abuse of power. It undermines our national security, it violates his oath of office, and it strikes at the heart of the responsibility a president has to put national interests ahead of personal interests," Biden said.
New York Times columnist, right-leaning Ross Douthat, this week examined whether Trump wants to be impeached and Pelosi's previous resistance to it. Douthat contends that "Trump is happy to pit his overt abuses of power against the soft corruption of his foes. ... Trump has always sold himself as the candidate of a more honest form of graft. ..."
As for the Democrats, Douthat continues: "[T]he dictum that it's better to beat Trump at the polls than lose a Senate vote probably doesn't hold up if you talk yourself into looking permanently supine in the face of indubitable corruption."
At least we have the question of impeachment inquiry behind us. Now the new question is can we make good on it and save our country?