House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is wrong to limit impeachment inquiry

BALTIMORE – Millions of Americans think President Donald Trump can do no wrong, but millions more of us have a grip on reality. This goes far beyond political persuasion. Trump has been a continual affront to public civility, and to traditional notions of American ideals, and to the U.S. Constitution, since the moment he announced his 2016 campaign and clothed it in racist rhetoric.

And all of this is why I think House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is wrong.

She’s wrong when she talks of limiting any impeachment inquiry to his latest outrage, in which Trump attempts to improve his re-election chances by withholding Ukraine’s ability to hold off Russia’s murderous armies.

Pelosi’s impeachment reasoning is clear. She believes the latest collusion between Trump and foreign leaders is easy for Americans to understand, and far simpler than the complexities of the Mueller investigation.

She’s right about that, but what could be simpler to understand, for example, than Trump’s $280,000 hush-money payments to two women? And this isn’t even about the sex. Whatever Trump and those women did is no more my business – or your business, America – than Bill Clinton’s was.

It was Bill and Hillary’s business, nobody else’s. And it’s Trump and Melania’s business, nobody else’s.

Except for this: Trump spent the $280,000 to help fix a presidential election. If that’s too complicated for an impeachment inquiry, then God help us all.

But the list of outrages goes on, and history demands its recounting. It’s not just the violations of human decency, such as the treatment of immigrant children. Or the callousness toward hurricane victims of Puerto Rico, or the racial insensitivity after Charlottesville, or the environmental rollbacks, or the hiding of Trump’s taxes long after he promised he’d release them.

Trump was supposed to distance himself from his family businesses. But we’ve got U.S. military paying to bunk at his golf resorts. We’ve got 22 foreign governments spending money at Trump Organization properties. Two months ago, the Washington Post reported that roughly one-third of all the political fundraisers or donor meetings that Trump has attended – dozens of them – have taken place at his own properties.

This is a man who insists on cashing in on his presidency.

And we haven’t even touched on 10 different reasons the Mueller report gave us for impeachment, which should not be cast aside.

Millions of us felt cheated because special prosecutor Robert Mueller failed to lay out a compelling, understandable narrative when he testified before Congress, and millions more of us never bothered to read the lengthy but leaden report his investigators put together.

But, if you simply ignore those violations now, as the nation begins contemplating impeachment, and you leave the historic record gaping with holes, it’s as if his first three years of outrageous acts don’t rise to the level of acknowledgment.

You cast those aside now, and you’ll leave millions of us, furious as we’ve listened to this man’s bullying rants over the last three years, feeling cheated. Millions of us have an emotional investment in validation of our anger, and in punishment for Trump’s belligerence, his endless, unapologetic lying, his conflicts of interest, his hypocrisy, his degrading of the office.

A year ago, in Esquire Magazine, Charles P. Pierce wrote, “In my life, I have watched John Kennedy talk on television about missiles in Cuba. I saw Lyndon Johnson look Richard Russell in the eye and say, ‘And we shall overcome.’ I saw Richard Nixon resign and Gerald Ford tell the Congress that our long national nightmare was over.

“I saw Jimmy Carter talk about malaise and Ronald Reagan talk about a shining city on a hill. I saw George H.W. Bush deliver the eulogy for the Soviet bloc, and Bill Clinton comfort the survivors of Timothy McVeigh’s madness in Oklahoma City. I saw George W. Bush struggle to make sense of it all on Sept. 11, 2001, and I saw Barack Obama sing ‘Amazing Grace’ in the wounded sanctuary of Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

“These were the presidents of my lifetime. They were not perfect men. They were not perfect presidents, God knows. Not one of them was that. But they approached the job, and they took to the podium, with all the gravitas they could muster as appropriate to the job. They tried, at least, to reach for something in the presidency that was beyond their grasp as human beings. They were not all ennobled by the attempt, but they tried nonetheless…

“But we never have had such a cheap counterfeit of a president as currently occupies the office…an empty man who feels nothing but his own imaginary greatness…Presidents don’t have to be heroes to be good presidents. They just have to realize that their humanity is our common humanity and that their political commonwealth is our political commonwealth, too.”

All of this will be Donald Trump’s disturbing legacy, and all should be part of any impeachment process.