“Sometimes it's hard to be a [Republican]

Giving all your love to just one man …

Doin' things that you don't understand

But if you love him you'll forgive him,

Even though he's hard to understand

… Stand by your man”

— Tammy Wynette and Billy Sherrill

 

What Donald Trump has now done makes the shade of Richard Nixon feel like his earthly form got shafted. Trump not only asked a foreign power, Ukraine, to investigate a potential political opponent, Joe Biden. He very strongly implied that, if they did not find anything concrete, they should make it up.

The “ask” by itself is a high crime more than worthy of impeachment and conviction (52 U.S. Code §30121). Add to that an apparent quid pro quo — the release of $400 million of U.S. weapons aid to fend off the Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine by Trump’s close friend, Vladimir Putin. Trump ordered that aid withheld despite its existential necessity if Ukraine is to survive. Add Trump’s TV request to authoritarian China to also get him dirt on a political opponent (the quid pro quo here likely being trade negotiations). Then, in addition, factor in hiding away the transcripts of Trump’s reckless, embarrassing and perhaps illegal conduct in meetings with Russians and phone calls with foreign leaders in a super-top-secret–compartmentalized-Q-clearance database (no Republican dares call it what it is — a server [shades of Hillary!]) traditionally reserved for the most sensitive, classified national security conversations, now despoiled and debased by inclusion of politically shaming exchanges.

There is nothing remotely complicated about Trump’s latest and greatest abuse of his office, the powers of the presidency, the Constitution, democracy, his oath of office and the rule of law. His admitted criminal conduct amounts to the biggest crime ever committed — or even contemplated — by a President of the United States.

There is no ambiguity here.

Up to now, I opposed impeaching him despite his litany of abuses resembling a rap sheet longer than the 224-foot Bayeux Tapestry. My sense was that the political climate was such that impeachment without conviction by a U.S. Senate controlled by Trump flunkies might even, perversely, benefit his re-election. That’s ancient history now that he has attempted to coerce at least one foreign power to intervene in a U.S. election on his behalf. He must be subjected to an impeachment inquiry. This kind of conduct by a president cannot be tolerated without account. So what if the spineless Senate lickspittles that used to be labeled Republicans fail to convict him? Like him, they too will have to defend their cowardice and complicity in November 2020. The voters will judge them first, followed by history’s condemnation. When their grandchildren ask them what they did to neutralize the wretch, they will run and hide, cowering in the closet until the kids leave.

At the comparable Watergate “smoking gun” moment, a group of honorable Republican senators who retained a sense of decency and concern for the country went to the White House and told Richard Nixon that the time had come for him to resign. Don’t expect the current crop of pathetic poltroons and contemptible Quislings to do the same. Instead, they parrot the White House’s litany of lies. They follow Trump’s lead in falsely accusing his evidence-based accusers of the very crimes he has committed. When they can shame themselves no further, they seek the last refuge of scoundrels: shouting that they are patriots defending their president and that his accusers are treasonous spies. They prefer to let the Trumpster fire consume them rather than do their duty to their country and its citizens.

It’s a safe bet that, despite the carnage Trump has unleashed on America and his repulsive and arguably criminal tweets and outbursts (“Civil War,” “spies,” “treason” et al.), congressional Republicans will continue to stand by their man until they go down in flames.

Canandaigua Academy graduate Richard Hermann is a law professor, legal blogger, author of seven books and part-time resident of the Finger Lakes.