“I would like you to do us a favor.” If you want to understand President Trump’s corruption, this quote tells you everything you need to know. It is a sentence from a transcript his own administration released of a phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, a direct reply to a request for military aid. When the House Democrats announced an impeachment inquiry into President Trump four weeks ago, they made it clear they would be focused and relentless in getting answers for the American people — but 28 days later, the most damning pieces of evidence have come from the president himself.
Impeachment began with a whistleblower in America’s State Department, collating facts provided by over half a dozen officials and alleging that the White House withheld aid from Ukraine, an American ally and frequent target of Russian aggression, to try and coerce them into launching an investigation into the son of his rival 2020 candidate Joe Biden. More than extorting a rival, however, the Trump administration scrambled to cover up evidence, abusing a secure computer system reserved for protecting highly sensitive information to store the transcript of a routine phone call. While the President may claim that the report was based only on second-hand testimony, this has been refuted by the Intelligence Community’s Inspector General.
Where lies failed to protect the President, however, honesty didn’t help much either. When asked if there was a quid pro quo, the response from acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was simple: “Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” In the days since, as he scrambled to walk his remarks back and muddy the waters, he hasn’t recovered from such a direct admission of corruption. While the Trump administration’s policy may be “get over it,” America’s top diplomat to Ukraine has a different view, saying in a text message released to Congress that “it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
In spite of what Mulvaney may say, this merits trotting out a phrase that’s been on everyone’s lips since the start of Trump’s presidency: this is not normal. America cannot stand up as a world power if its allies can’t trust it — and whether it’s using his power to twist Ukraine’s arm for personal gain or abandoning the Kurds who fought steadfastly with America against ISIS to slaughter at the hands of Turkey, Trump has been doing all he can to make our country weaker, lonelier and less reliable.
It’s important to recognize that you don’t need to give up pursuing progressive policy to pursue the truth. While the president smears his opposition as the “do-nothing Democrats,” the Democratic party has been hard at work beyond just holding Trump accountable. Starting with H.R. 1, a bold anti-corruption bill, the House has put forward solution after solution for the challenges America faces today. Measures such as the Equality Act, to secure the rights of LGBTQ Americans, and the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, are common-sense and broad — as of March, over two-thirds of Americans support protections for the LGBTQ community and as far back as 2015 an overwhelming majority of Americans, gun owners, and even NRA members have supported universal background checks. It’s not impeachment keeping these measures from seeing a vote on the Senate floor but rather the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the self-styled “grim reaper” of legislation.
McConnell said that impeachment is the Democrats’ attempt to “reverse” the 2016 election, and in Mulvaney’s admission he admonished the press that “elections have consequences.” In the face of this, as support for impeachment surges and 52.3% of Americans at least want to see the impeachment process started, according to FiveThirtyEight, the Democratic party stands tall. Our 2018 victory, and our 2016 popular vote victory are all the mandates the party needs, and in spite of absurd allegations that impeachment is a “coup,” or the President calling laws he dislikes “phony,” our elected officials will continue to exercise their Constitutional power of oversight to hold Trump accountable.
Elections have consequences, but corruption has consequences too, and America’s allies deserve better than “I would like you to do us a favor.”
Ethan Carpenter ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in political science. He is the press secretary for the College Democrats of UW-Madison.
Editor’s note: Ethan is a columnist for The Badger Herald. Here, his views strictly represent those of the College Democrats and do not represent The Badger Herald.
Read about the College Republicans’ position on impeachment here.