Witcover: A new reason to get moving on Trump impeachment

President Trump has rebuffed FBI Director Christopher Wray for reporting that the Russians are again pursuing opposition research with which to meddle in the 2020 presidential election. It shockingly reveals he never saw anything wrong with Russian interference in 2016, when he won with it.

Mr. Trump's observation in a recent ABC News interview validates the argument that Speaker Nancy Pelosi should stop slow-walking impeachment in the House and get him out of the Oval Office before he does more damage to our democracy.


Her earlier, apparently off-the-cuff remark that she would rather see the president in jail that impeached was politically obtuse, an attempt to rein in the rush to remove him before the 2020 election.

Her utterance then was understandable in the context of Mr. Trump's pushback against threatened subpoenas to his campaign and administration aides for sworn testimony on Capitol Hill. But it's more imperative now than ever to remove Trump with no extended delay.


Retired Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in his road map to the House Judiciary, Oversight, Ways and Means and other committees, clearly invited them to pick up the ball on impeachment and run with it, as the Constitution specifies.

The notion of throwing the president in the slammer, even after due process of congressional hearings, does smack of putting the cart before the horse, as more investigation and a formal impeachment inquiry are needed.

Ms. Pelosi's remark has already been compared to "Lock Her Up!" -- the slogan so familiar at Trump campaign rallies in 2016 and a favorite bromide of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, who himself pleaded guilty to perjury in the sprawling case of malfeasance.

But the first imperative in congressional action against the sitting president should be getting him out of the Oval Office and detaching him from the powers he invokes in his various assaults on our democratic process and on our national values.

His sledgehammer attacks on civil rights among racial and ethnic minorities at home, and on the collective security abroad shaped from the embers of World War II and the Cold War, make it imperative that his presidential powers be removed from his hands sooner rather than later.

If further evidence is needed of the damage he inflicts on our reputation abroad, Mr. Trump provided it in his televised political attacks on Ms. Pelosi against the backdrop of the Normandy cemetery bearing the graves of thousands of Americans who gave their lives in the Allied invasion of Europe.

Many Democrats seem deterred from supporting Mr. Trump's impeachment on grounds that, even if the House votes to impeach, the GOP-dominated Senate will never vote to convict.

Hence there is a growing Democratic drive to wrest the Senate in 2020 with a four-seat pickup. But even then, barring a Democratic sweep, the two-thirds majority required in the Senate to remove him seems far-fetched.


It is being argued now by some Democrats, as Ms. Pelosi once mused, that Mr. Trump actually wants to be impeached. The rationale is it would harden even more his stranglehold on the Republican Party and on the nation.

But it would be hard to imagine Mr. Trump enduring even impeachment short of conviction, as Bill Clinton did, and then winning a second term. If most Americans truly are aghast at what Donald Trump has wrought on our constitutional government, the solution may only come eventually in the regular device of the ballot box next November. That is, of course, unless the antiquated Electoral College that put him in the White House in 2016 does so again in 2020.

In the meantime, his latest observation that he still doesn't see anything wrong with a foreign adversary putting its foot on the scales of our electoral process is a strong incentive not to delay any longer in hastening his departure from the seat of power.

Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power" (Smithsonian Books). His email is