Editorials

‘Impeachable offense’ has not lost all meaning, Sen. Rubio; neither has the integrity of the presidency | Editorial

President Trump may have really stepped in it this time. Not only that, he admitted it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has steadfastly pushed back against calls to impeach the president, had no choice but to capitulate to Democratic lawmakers’ rising cries and open an impeachment inquiry. Tuesday, that’s just what she announced.

Last April, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s breathlessly awaited conclusions on the president and Russian interference in U.S. elections was murky, debatable and, ultimately, went nowhere. However, reports that Trump pressed the president of Ukraine to ferret out possible acts of corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter have a chilling clarity that everyone can understand. It can’t be argued away — though Trump’s Republican sycophants will try. If they do, it will be the most egregious betrayal of what America should stand for since their refusal to grant Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a Senate hearing.

Tuesday, Pelosi presented a short and straightforward cause-and-effect for her decision to launch the impeachment inquiry. It’s simple, according to the House speaker: Trump violated the Constitution; the president broke the law.

The first seems obvious on its face. The second has a long path to navigate before lawmakers reach any final determination. The inquiry is the critical first step. We applaud Pelosi and the Democrats for taking it. We applaud, too, the Miami lawmakers who stood solidly with Pelosi, Reps. Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

The scandal began with an unusual whistleblower complaint against a U.S. president — unheard of, until now.

The unidentified informer, thought to be a national security staffer, accused Trump of urging a foreign leader, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, to fight corruption and, in the process, investigate his top political rival, Democratic candidate Joe Biden, and his son, who had worked for a Ukrainian gas company. As President Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden negotiated with that country.

Trump said he had a right to ask for corruption to be addressed in that country, which had a history of problems. Fine. But perhaps the president thought that withholding $391 million in congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine — one week before the conversation — would give him leverage to get Zelensky to Yes. Trump asked for an investigation eight times during the conversation with the Ukrainian leader — he has admitted as much — but, he said, with no expectation of a quid pro quo.

Unaccustomed to the sense of vulnerability, Trump said he would release a transcript of this chat with Zelensky. And playing catch-up, the Republican-led Senate now insists — insists — that the whistleblower’s complaint also be made public. The complaint, withheld from Congress, in violation of the law, is due to be released Wednesday, as is the Trump transcript.

Pelosi called impending impeachment proceedings “a moment of utmost gravity.” She’s absolutely right, which is why we hope that Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio walks back his cavalier comments from Monday: “It is possible to do something that is wrong and not be an impeachable offense and people are throwing that term around so loosely it’s lost all meaning.”

Wrong again, Senator. It hasn’t lost all meaning. And neither has maintaining the integrity of the presidency.

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