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Too soon to impeach

the Editorial BoardMarch 12, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s comment that she does not support impeachment of President Trump at this time makes sense for her party and more importantly, for America.

Pelosi said Monday in an interview for Washington Post Magazine that impeaching Trump now would be too divisive. “Unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan,” she said, “I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.”

Other Democrats disagreed. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said, “It’s not about whether or not it’s worth it. It’s our obligation to the American people and the Constitution.”

In her zeal to oust Trump, Jayapal ignores that Pelosi didn’t rule out impeachment; the speaker said it’s too soon to open that door. Whether it is ever opened may depend on the Mueller investigation of allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency in 2016.

Speculation that a final report by special counsel Robert Mueller will soon be released has been swirling for weeks. Even if the Mueller probe doesn’t prove collusion, it has already raised the possibility of crimes by the president that may not be impeachable offenses but could make him subject to prosecution after he leaves office.

A host of Trump’s confidantes have already been indicted or convicted based on information that the Mueller investigation apparently uncovered. That includes Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, who told Congress the president is a “racist,” “con man” and “cheat.”

Cohen said he paid hush money to two women who said they had affairs with Trump to keep them quiet during his presidential campaign, a charge Trump denies. Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison for campaign finance violations, tax evasion, making false statements to a bank and lying to Congress.

Other implicated members of Trump’s orbit include his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, convicted of conspiracy; former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, convicted of conspiracy and lying to federal investigators; former national security adviser Michael Flynn, convicted of lying to the FBI about his contact with Russian officials; and former Trump adviser Roger Stone, indicted for witness tampering and making false statements in connection with the Russian attempts to affect the 2016 election.

The close ties these men had to Trump certainly suggest the president should be worried. Pelosi is right, however, to conclude Congress needs more than it has now to travel down the impeachment trail.

Her fellow Democrats need to prove getting Trump isn’t the only reason they came to Washington, if they want to build on their gains in last year’s midterm election. There’s more than enough other business on their plate, including Trump’s proposed budget, which would sacrifice Medicare and Medicaid on the altar of deficit spending and finance his ill-conceived border wall.

Meanwhile, Republicans must abandon their blind loyalty to Trump if any investigation uncovers impeachable offenses. Besides the Mueller probe, U.S. attorneys in New York, the District of Columbia, and Virginia are separately investigating various campaign and foreign influence allegations involving Trump. New York state is also investigating him for tax fraud.

And don’t forget that the House Judiciary Committee, now under Democratic leadership, has begun an open-ended investigation that is expected to cover everything from Russian collusion to Stormy Daniel’s hush money. Pelosi’s hesitancy to embrace impeachment is a warning to the committee that it is more important to be right than to be partisan.

Only two American presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson, a Southern sympathizer who succeeded Abraham Lincoln after his assassination, and Bill Clinton, a moderate Democrat by today’s standards who lied about having a sexual tryst with an impressionable White House intern. Neither man was convicted by the Senate. In fact, Clinton ended his second term as one of the most popular presidents ever.

Let the facts determine whether Trump should be impeached. Maybe by then there will be a preponderance of evidence that leads him to follow Richard Nixon’s example and resign. If not, the American public will be given the chance to weigh the results of all the investigations and decide whether Trump is the scoundrel Cohen described who doesn’t deserve their support.

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