Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019.
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Here’s a bit of advice to Republican members of Congress, including Maryland’s own Rep. Andy Harris: Don’t be so quick to embrace the alternative fact that President Donald Trump’s interactions with the president of Ukraine can’t possibly represent an impeachable offense and threat to national security. The whistleblower’s complaint has not only been reinforced by the partial transcript (or perhaps more accurately, reconstruction) of a July 25 telephone call released publicly this week but also by the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community who considered it credible and urgent. Those are labels supported Thursday by acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire during his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

White House memo on Ukraine

The IG and DNI are not Democratic shills. These aren’t partisan hacks. These are career public servants who have labored for Democratic and Republican administrations alike, and they can see something wrong with possibly strong-arming another country to serve personal political agendas and then attempting to cover it up. Americans have come to expect obfuscation from President Trump, who seems to have a reflexive “witch hunt” button on his Twitter account. And while it’s fair to suggest that, despite the president’s well-established pattern of a “l'état, c’est moi” approach to foreign policy, he’s innocent until proven guilty, the “hear no evil, see no evil” GOP crowd may find themselves on quite a limb the way things are going.

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And that’s as of Day 2 of the impeachment inquiry announced Tuesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Good luck with those talking points, Rep. Devin Nunes and fellow White House shills who think looking into possible wrongdoing is a “charade” or “unhinged.” As at least one level-headed Republican observed, there’s “lots very troubling” in the whistleblower complaint and the phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky. That was Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, whom Mr. Trump has already endorsed for reelection, incidentally.

President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shake hands during a meeting in New York on September 25 on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shake hands during a meeting in New York on September 25 on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Contrast the senator’s reasonable assessment with that of Maryland’s Andy Harris, who claims to have read the memo detailing the phone conversation and sees nothing wrong whatsoever. In fact, when asked point blank on National Public Radio on Wednesday whether anything in the memo concerns him, the congressman’s immediate response was “No, to be honest with you.” Nice choice of words, congressman. Apparently, the whole business about asking for a “favor,” from the Ukrainian leader or wanting him to deal with his lawyer/mouthpiece Rudolph Giuliani (instead of, you know, the State Department) and for Mr. Zelensky to back an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son is a trifle. It goes without saying that Mr. Biden is a leading contender to replace Mr. Trump in 2020. See any problems here?

Granted, there is no shortage of elected Democrats who dislike the current president. But the U.S. can’t continually operate like the nation’s laws don’t matter and it’s just one gang against another and we all have to choose sides. In reality, Mr. Trump likes to have other countries on his political bandwagon whether it’s Russia, North Korea (Kim Jong Un’s mocking of Mr. Biden as a “fool of low IQ” was quite a hit with the president), China or Saudi Arabia. Donald Trump is just a circular ornament headdress away from declaring himself a monarch. Much of his self-above-all approach to leadership is questionable, but the Ukraine matter may have crossed a serious legal line.

Sometimes, we find this administration’s “alternative facts” approach to reality avoidance amusing. Often, it comes across as childish and simple-minded. But this is one of those instances when Mr. Trump’s predictable response — deny the facts, blame the media, attack critics, make false comparisons, fog things up and repeat — is more than tiresome. We’ll say this much for Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats. It’s not clear that an impeachment inquiry works for them politically. A two-thirds vote in the Senate to convict appears as likely as an Orioles appearance in a World Series despite their mathematical elimination from the playoffs. But the Democrats saw possible wrongdoing and recognized that impeachment needed to be on the table.

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In a different era, Maryland Rep. Larry Hogan Sr. voted for all three articles of impeachment against then-President Richard Nixon, the only Republican on the House Judiciary Committee to do so, despite White House pressure. Those charges included abuse of power and obstruction of justice. Forty-five years later, it’s difficult to imagine any Republican in the House having as clear a vision of right and wrong as the late father of Maryland’s current governor. And that all-too-apparent lack of courage and conviction might be the most depressing aspect of this latest revelation.

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