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WASHINGTON — For the first time in American history, the president has pleaded guilty to an impeachable offense.

This is effectively what happened when the White House released the readout from Donald Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. There is now no question that Trump asked the leader of a foreign country to investigate Joe Biden and his son — a request that was made in the context of a broader discussion of American aid to Ukraine. This was the use of American power and diplomacy, not to serve the interests of the country, but for personal and selfish gain. It constitutes corruption of the first order.

Impeachment may be inadvisable. It may apply a cheese grater to the nation’s partisan wounds. The process may be conducted foolishly. It may feed a Republican thirst for revenge against a future Democratic president. It may motivate Trump’s base to salivating enthusiasm. The broad, American middle may yawn and switch to ESPN.

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Michael Gerson

All of this matters, especially if it increases the chances of Trump’s reelection. But it matters like a fate, not like a choice. In T.S. Eliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral,” a priest says of unfolding events, “Let the wheel turn.” Archbishop Thomas Becket later comments: “The fool, fixed in his folly, may think/ He can turn the wheel on which he turns.”

No one in our unfolding drama can now turn the wheel on which they turn. Trump’s clearly impeachable offense has given the partisan instincts of elected Democrats the added justification of principle. The whistleblower complaint has affirmed those concerns and expanded their scope. This makes the process of impeachment inevitable. Now the actors are merely choosing what roles they will play.

Trump’s role is to push and push until he meets firm resistance to his abuse of power — something he has rarely experienced. Note that Trump’s call with Zelensky came during the denouement of the investigation of Russian influence. According to the readout, Trump says: “As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller.”

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Consider this a moment. Trump gloated about beating the charge that he conspired with a foreign government to win an election, during a call in which he proposed to conspire with a foreign government to win reelection. The man is immune to ethical instruction. And further, Trump thought that releasing the readout of the call would somehow be exculpatory. He has spent so many years in the trash heap of corruption that he can no longer recognize the stench.

Because Trump tests boundaries of morality and legality, his defenders are, in effect, calling on Americans to ratify those changes. By all the evidence, Trump believes that politics, stripped of pretense, is the dirty, unethical pursuit of power, which is properly used to destroy your enemies. Republicans who defend or excuse him are providing permission for his radical redesign of public life. This is perhaps the saddest result of Trump’s corruption: turning good men and women into the bodyguards of a petty, cruel, lawless, would-be autocrat.

Because Trump has chosen to be transparently corrupt, congressional Republicans cannot dispute the facts of the case (as they did during the Mueller investigation). They may still insist: No quid pro quo. But this is more of a rally chant than an argument. Trump’s request for foreign help to win the 2020 election was not like Belgium asking Uruguay for a favor. It was a global superpower asking a country dependent on American military aid — which had just been withheld in a “review” — for favors. Trump pointedly reminded Zelensky that “the United States is doing quite a lot for Ukraine.” Trump’s requests were made in an atmosphere of menace.

In the transcript, Trump’s first request concerns the “CrowdStrike” investigation of the Democratic National Committee’s security breach during the 2016 campaign. Conspiracy theorists allege that the inquiry was an elaborate hoax to fake a breach and that the evidence is contained in a computer server somewhere in Ukraine. Evidently the president of the United States believes this as well. His request will be long remembered at the State Department as one of the most incomprehensible and asinine of American diplomatic history.

Trump’s main request — a joint Ukrainian/U.S. Justice Department/Rudy Giuliani investigation of Biden’s (falsely) alleged role in preventing the Ukrainian prosecution of his son — is nearly as strange and specious. But it was made by the most visible representative of America, speaking in the name of the American people.

The American people will ultimately decide if this disturbs or bores them. Whatever the outcome, the wheel has begun to turn.

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Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson can be reached at michaelgerson@washpost.com.

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(43) comments

new2Lax

No Homey, the prosecutor who was fired provided an affidavit stating he was fired for investigating Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. This document came from the Ukrainian embassy. So telling me this was investigated and nothing was found is BS and you should know, I’m right, again. You seem to think this is over, it’s just begun. Let me know who investigated this and what was said about it, a committee of some sort, State Dept., DOJ would have had the final word or would have commented on the disposition of the inquiry.

oldhomey

Put this in your cereal tomorrow and chew on it, new2: "Since 2012, the Ukrainian prosecutor general had been investigating oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky, owner of the oil and natural gas company Burisma Holdings, over allegations of money laundering, tax evasion, and corruption.[22] In 2014, then-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, joined the board of directors of Burisma Holdings.[23] In 2015, Shokin became the prosecutor general, inheriting the investigation. The Obama administration and other governments and non-governmental organizations soon became concerned that Shokin was not adequately pursuing corruption in Ukraine, was protecting the political elite, and was regarded as "an obstacle to anti-corruption efforts".[24] Among other issues, he was slow-walking the investigation into Zlochevsky and Burisma – to the extent that Obama officials were considering launching their own criminal investigation into the company for possible money laundering.[22]



While visiting Kiev in December 2015, Joe Biden threatened Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that if he did not fire Shokin, that the US would hold back its $1 billion in loan guarantees. "I looked at them and said, 'I'm leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you're not getting the money.' [...] He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time."[25][26] Shokin was dismissed by Parliament in late March 2016.



Shokin claimed in May 2019 that he had been investigating Burisma Holdings.[27][28][29][30] However, Vitaliy Kasko, who had been Shokin's deputy overseeing international cooperation before resigning in February 2016 citing corruption in the office, provided documents to Bloomberg News indicating that under Shokin, the investigation into Burisma had been dormant.[31] Also, the investigation into Burisma only pertained to events happening before Hunter Biden joined the company.[32] "



I didn't say this. Lots of people are saying this, as a certain president might say. The problem for him is that a lot of people have documentation and evidence and proof of what they are saying is true. That is why Wikipedia foot-noted them.

oldhomey

The document may well have come from the Ukrainian embassy, new2. The Ukrainian government still knows who it has to please the most in DC to get its toast buttered with US butter and is likely to do whatever it thinks is needed to placate that person. Unfortunately for you, the evidence is pretty clear that the company that Biden's son worked for was not under investigation by the crooked prosecutor when Biden and other European powers pressured Ukraine to fire that prosecutor. Of course that crooked prosecutor right now must be delighted that Trump has opened this can of worms, because he can protest that he was no crook, as he clearly was, but that he was a victim. A crack HR guy like you must recognize how these machinations work. Perhaps you weren't weren't as up to snuff as you claim to have been. Here is a little bit of background to help you understand this:



"Vitaliy Kasko, who had been Shokin’s deputy overseeing international cooperation before resigning in February 2016 citing corruption in the office, produced documents to Bloomberg that under Shokin [this is your fired prosecutor, new2, who is now claiming he was fired because he was investigating young Biden], the investigation into Burisma [this is the Ukrainian company young Biden worked for} had been dormant.



"'There was no pressure from anyone from the U.S. to close cases against Zlochevsky,' Kasko told Bloomberg. 'It was shelved by Ukrainian prosecutors in 2014 and through 2015.'"



That is when Vice President Biden went to Ukraine and told the government the US would withhold the $1 billion in aid unless Shokin was removed, and he was removed very early in 2016.

martian2

it is curious to see the right wingers here circle the wagons and trying to defend the indefensible in Trump. The whataboutisms are beginning to get hilarious. Fox nut newt takes the booby prize for that tactic. Their desperation is clearly showing as they pretend to be too dumb to understand the importance of fair elections and democracy. D gets the booby prize for that one. then there is the blind loyalty and name calling idiots who don't have a clue on anything, Ricky boy gets the booby prize for that one. I bet all of the above would be ok with a civil war, except they wouldn't want to get their hands dirty and actually fight in it. They think war is just a harmless video game to be played by others

new2Lax

With Trump getting elected in 2016, you are probably furious with Obama and his administration in failing to deal with Russia’s intervention. Obama miscalculating the Ukraine’s involvement to help Hillary didn’t carry the day for her. If Obama had done what he could have to stop the meddling by Russia, Hillary would still have not won but the effort would have been appreciated by the American public. They were aware of the meddling a year before Trump entered the race, plenty of time to make a difference, so they paid a price.

new2Lax

There is not even a chance Trump will be removed from office, none, nada, zippo. I guess no one seems to think it is even questionable the billion dollar contract from China or the 50,000 dollar salary from A corrupt company, not even a question. Who would benefit from stopping an investigation in to a corrupt company in which Hunter Biden is on the board of directors. It certainly doesn’t help Trump unless there is truly corruption with the company. Adam Shiff could have read the transcript aloud but instead he made up what he thought it should have said, the reason the letter was innocuous and he knew it.

oldhomey

I dunno, new2. You say you were so highly paid as a crack HR man for a Fortune 300 company that you are now a member of America's "elite" class. Yet you display absolutely no ability on these boards to express yourself, and worse, you demonstrably have no ideas of your own, other than when to say "Yes, sir" or "No, sir". I would not be so loose as you are about accusing anybody else not deserving the money they earn. The most laughable upshot of this is that you have absolutely bought hook, line and sinker the false talking points the GOP is desperately putting out about Hunter Biden in its attempt to distract from Donald Trump's criminal activity.

new2Lax

I see the wrong that has been done and say so, you make excuses for what happened. If you think for one minute China didn’t know what they were doing as well as Burisma in dealing with a man who was kicked out of the military for addiction, no experience in energy, and his father was Vice President of the United States as just a coincidence, you sir remain an idiot. You see nothing wrong with Biden actually doing a quid pro quo and Trumps implied quid pro quo. Here again I must prove you wrong, just like your quote on Blasey Ford, you found her extremely credible.

oldhomey

Okay, new2, I remain an idiot, but I have owned up to that many times before. You never have. And yet you lay out what you think are prima facie facts about the Biden son and say it is good enough to bundle him off to jail, along with his father and Obama, too, I would imagine. How does the "quid pro quo" you think exists in your faulty scenario exceed the quid pro quo Trump revealed in his dealings with a foreign power by releasing the transcript of the phone call in which it took place. He acknowledges it was him talking. If those were not his actual words, why is he not protesting that they aren't his words? Why would he have released the transcript at all if they were not his words? Where does this put you on the idiot scale? C'mon, old timer, it is not all that hard to admit to your idiocies. You have more of them to account for than most people.

capedcrusader

https://lacrossetribune.com/news/national/govt-and-politics/fact-checking-trump-on-ukraine-impeachment-fight/collection_570346ab-f8de-5b66-bbaf-4b4399c733f6.html#1

Rick Czeczok

People, here is a prime example of how this socialist activist group gang up on someone that they see as a threat to their message. So sad to see how the tribune allows this to go on. Maybe they have ins to the tribune, who knows for sure.

capedcrusader

It appears YOU are the one getting comments deleted...

PhysicsIsFun

Dicky are you talking about yourself as this terrible threat to me. You with your brainless name calling and nonsense spewing. I hardly consider you a threat. More like a sad joke.

oldhomey

It looks like Ricky is suffering the same I-am-the-victim" syndrome as Donald Trump. Both of these bozos jump feet first into the kitchen, turn on all the burners, and then can't stand the heat and turn tail and run as others come running in to kick their butts for their careless neglect. Poor boy, Ricky. I feel so bad for you. You apparently are incapable of learning the rules, so you are condemned to a life of getting yourself in trouble and being spurned. It must be a lonely existence.

Jobaba

It becomes very obvious that conservatives are pretty upset about this whole thing. it is because they have read the transcript and they know. And once you know, you can't unknow. They can squawk and bluster, but in their heart of hearts they know what the president did was wrong and against most of the American values we believe in. They chose a leader who lacks the values and integrity for the job, and they are angry.

new2Lax

Homey, after all you have seen over the past two years and your praying to god this process will be fair. Oh my god, you are naive and or stupid. When the claim is coming from not a whistleblower but a second or third hand source and when Adam Shiff read a parody of the transcript instead of reading the actual transcript, you better pray to a higher source because fairness ain’t going to happen. I’m surprised you would even think why that would happen, remember this is Adam Shiff and Jerry Nadler. I’m not sure if you saw Pelosi and Nadler on the impeachment of Clinton, speak of hypocrisy. You almost had to laugh, it was a complete 180. They were ready to canonize Clinton and the process was deemed unfair because Republicans supposedly had so much hate for Clinton. I think you are making the jump to Warren by now, Joe is a goner.

PhysicsIsFun

As far as the notion that a whistleblower complaint must be based on first hand knowledge and that the rules for this were suspiciously just changed, well that is false, Here are the facts, "'It seems like they are jumping to a lot of conclusions based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the law, the regulatory framework, and the language on one form,' said Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute.

The kernel of fact near the center of the conspiracy theory is that there is, indeed, a new version of Form 401 dated August 2019. A question on the form explicitly anticipates tips based on secondhand information, and asks the whistleblower to check a box: “I have direct and personal knowledge,” or, “I heard about it from others.” The Federalist used a screenshot of that field to illustrate its story. What the article didn’t mention or screenshot is a nearly identical field gracing Form 401 since at least May 2018, making it impossible that it was added as an easement for Trump’s whistleblower. The major difference in the fields is that the old form includes three options instead of two, subdividing secondhand sources into outside source and “other employees.” There’s a reason the form has allowed secondhand reports all along. The requirement for firsthand whistleblowing only is completely made up. “There’s never been a requirement that a whistleblower have firsthand knowledge of what they’re reporting,” said Irvin McCullough, an investigator at the nonprofit Government Accountability Project (and the son of a former IC IG). “They need to have a reasonable belief. The firsthand information is usually gathered by the inspector general, as I believe did occur here.” https://www.thedailybeast.com/gop-shows-russian-trolls-how-its-done-with-trump-inspector-general-whistleblower-smear?ref=home

oldhomey

All of us, new2, are naive about many things. I will leave it to the events in the next few weeks or months to determine, however, who is being more naive about the Trump impeachment hearings, investigations, and resulting evidence, you or me. The popularity of Fox News has been based solely on the extreme naivete of millions of right-wing leaning Americans such as yourself. It feeds on you and profits handsomely, careful, when confronted with its extreme biased presentations, to label itself not as a news operation, but an entertainment one.

new2Lax

At least Fox is profiting, wouldn’t CNN and MSNBC if they could. That’s kind of the point isn’t it, get as many viewers who believe in what your putting out. Now the problem with you and these sources, they do not watch because they do not believe what’s being delivered. You are correct in one respect, we must wait for Michael Horowitz’s report as well as Huber’s report and then John Durham’s final report, maybe there’s nothing there but we both know better, don’t we. If they find nothing it would still be a better report than the Mueller report. I’m sure you are preparing for us dummies to be running the country in 2020, that’s got to hurt and we are the dummies. The left seems to struggle with knowing right from wrong, good from bad, judging in general. They always seem to be on the wrong side of the equation, one would think these folks would pick up a little wisdom along the way but, no, they just don’t, they keep doing the wrong thing, I think there is a name for that malady.

oldhomey

No, new2, that is NOT kind of the point. A reputable news organization has a responsibility to its share holders and, even more importantly, to its customers to make an adequate income to be able to continue to exist and pay a staff to pursue its mission to inform the public honestly. But it runs against all sense of ethics and propiety for a news organization to print misinformation and outright lies because it is profitable to do so. Then it ceases to be a news organization, and it must label itself as an entertainment organization, which is what Fox News is. For a man who claims to have been a crack HR man for a Fortune 300 company for 39 years, you display an alarming lack of ethics in your thinking, not to mention some monumental ignorance of fact and reality. Were you in your job through family connections, or are you simply lying about your career, just as you lie repeatedly on these boards?

new2Lax

When the President of Ukraine is saying he in no way felt he was under any pressure, how do you prove what he says is not what he said. Asking for a favor to look into corruption in the 2016 election should not be a problem, especially when there was no expressed quid pro quo.How you go about proving what someone intended in a conversation will be quite impossible. If in fact the whistleblower had a bias will not go over well. The fact that the whistleblower was an employee of the White House, had a bias and was the only one coming forward will seem like everyone is against Trump, when you consider the 93% negative media reports and a 2 1/2 year failed Mueller report, that’s exactly what has happened and the entire country is well aware of that fact. The President will have all the When in doubt on his side and that should be the way it is. What I see happening here is Trump will be impeached by the Democrats in the house fail in the Senate by a wide margin and Trump will have a vast majority in his favor and be re-elected. Most everything being brought forward will get diminished by the IG report , the John Durham report and the report coming from the US attorney Huber in Utah on all the shenanigans with the FISA court abuses, biases in the FBI, CIA, DOJ and the State Department. So the Trump team should have plenty of ammunition going in and we all know how important the trade deals and economy are from here on in.

oldhomey

new2, this is an excellent example of how well you comprehend the who Ukraine phone call scandal, in your own words: "Asking for a favor to look into corruption in the 2016 election should not be a problem, especially when there was no expressed quid pro quo." In other words, you are totally clueless, and it is senseless to try to explain it to you.



Then you show you are even more confused: "The fact that the whistleblower was an employee of the White House, had a bias and was the only one coming forward will seem like everyone is against Trump, "



Your first sentence lays out the problem police, judges and prosecutors have faced for decades in getting testimony from eye witnesses who are terrified of mobsters whom they witnessed committing crimes: "When the President of Ukraine is saying he in no way felt he was under any pressure, how do you prove what he says is not what he said."

new2Lax

I think you are the one confused, number one, this whistleblower is not an eye witness, what this whistleblower is really is second and third hand information, basically gossip. If I heard the Ukrainian President correctly, he stated he was not pushed, pressured. Asking for help to find corruption is merely asking to follow the money. The only two countries Joe Biden was the point man are China and the Ukraine and isn’t it curious those are the two countries Hunter Biden received a billion dollar contract from China that dealt with purchasing of American assets and a 50,000 dollar a month salary from the most corrupt company in Ukraine, Burisma The fact that they were under investigation by Ukraine for corruption and Joe Biden’s son was part of the company should not have been a reason for withholding a billion dollar aid package. This is a direct quid pro quo, Biden interfered in the internal business of a foreign country and if was benefiting his son for personal gain. Now the phone call was first heard by a person who relayed it to the whistleblower, which is now secondhand information or basically gossip. The person who said he heard the call actually committed a crime by leaking classified information to another and this is a crime. The other question is why the first person did not come forward if he was concerned, he had several avenues available to him or her.

oldhomey

Read Physics response for the correct answer to your position that the Ukrainian president was not pressured by Trump. As for Biden's son being investigated in the Ukraine, even the former corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor whom Joe Biden was sent to help convince the Ukrainians to fire is saying that Biden's son was investigated and there was no evidence of wrong-doing. So where is your evidence to back up what you are saying. Ditto for your China allegations, which apparently is something new that Fox News has cobbled together to send out in its attempt to defend Trump's criminal activity. Basically gossip? All the intelligence chiefs in the government appointed by Trump, himself, said that the whistle blower report is credible and needs to be investigated. Please tell us how that is mere gossip, new2.

PhysicsIsFun

Of course he says he is not under pressure. He says that because he is under pressure.

Jobaba

Trump would have you believe that he did something wrong for a good cause.

Rick Czeczok

If the dems are that stupid to try it, will be their 2020 demise. Hatred for someone is not a great impeachment idea. Nadler and Shift will cause the dems to loose the house and I can't wait, then maybe something that really matters, will get done for the country.

DMoney

He can ask leaders of countries for favors all he wants. Nothing illegal or immoral about that. He can remind them that we do a lot for them. Nothing wrong. Unless he directly connects sending aid with receiving something, nothing wrong. This is a hoax.

martian2

oh D you know better than that. You are trying to normal corrupted and illegal behavior. Asking a foreign country to interfere with our elections is a violation of campaign laws and an abuse of power. Our elections should be above reproach. You however want to treat elections like a bargaining tool for the president. You are wrong, and always will be wrong on this matter. The stench coming out of this white house has become like cologne to you, and you wear it proudly. So sad.

DMoney

He didn't ask them to interfere with the election. You are twisting and perverting what was said to fit your canned beliefs.

martian2

D you are the one twisting and perverting what was said to fit your canned beliefs. Asking a foreign country to dig up dirt on a political opponent that you may well be running against is meddling in an election. Come on you can't be that dumb.

oldhomey

Read your moral ally, Rich Lowry's column, today, D. Apparently you are not getting the memo from the terrified, subjugated GOP that, yes, this is a very bad situation for Trump, but to save his butt, the tax cuts and more right-wing federal court appointments, the indefensible must be defended by offering up Rudy Giulani as a sacrificial lamb. Will it work? Beats me, but better, more informed conservative thinkers than you are acknowledging Trump was caught red-handed this time in a way that cannot be easily be swept under a rug by chanting "no quid pro quo".

DMoney

We shall see. Let the process begin.

oldhomey

Like it or not, the process has begun, D. Neither you or I seems particularly religious, but I pray to God that the process will be fair and unimpeded by official stonewalling from an administration that is the most opaque in modern history.

PhysicsIsFun

Dman for such cynical person you certainly are permissive and forgiving when it comes to your guy Trump.

Jobaba

If more Americans used their noggins, they would recognize the premise of this column straight away. It begins with an unmistakable assumption of guilt - because Trump is guilty. Once you can absorb that aspect, life will be much easier.

DMoney

Guilty because we said so.... makes a lot of sense.

Jobaba

Guilty in his own words on the transcript. Undeniable. Start from there.

martian2

I don't think D even read the column by Gerson. Too busy defending Trump to read.

oldhomey

Amen, Jo.

DMoney

Wrong. He did nothing wrong from the transcript. No aid was withheld, no threats made, no detailed and specific requests made. The Ukrainian president said he wasn't pressured. You are grasping for straws and the desperation is very apparent and pathetic and also sad.

oldhomey

D, most Republicans, from what I can see, said Trump did something incredibly wrong in seeking to get a foreign country to help him get "oppo" dirt in hopes of altering his chances of winning the 2020 election. You don't need "quid pro quo". the very act of seeking to get help from a foreign nation in altering an election is unconscionably wrong and, one would hope, a crime for a government official of the U.S. to be engaged in such activity. However, the unspoken quid pro quo is quite evident, too. Lowry is not the only conservative columnist acknowledging this. A lot of them are, and so are members of new2's beloved Fox News propaganda team. Don't you understand that you are a party to dismantling our most cherished democratic values, institutions and traditions with your blind support for this pig of a man in the White House?

martian2

republicans like D don't care about democracy. Its all about manipulating the vote and getting elected. Its not about fair and open elections for repubs like him. that much is clearly obvious.

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