The Atlantic

Even Getting Caught Red-Handed Isn’t Enough

One way or another, members of Congress should condemn Trump’s abuses of power. By defending his own misdeeds as no big deal, he is eroding norms of acceptable presidential behavior.
Source: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

The undisputed facts about President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky reveal conduct utterly incompatible with the president’s constitutional duty. Notwithstanding his desperate efforts to cast aspersions on the credibility and loyalty of the Ukraine whistle-blower and the many White House officials who conveyed their firsthand knowledge and profound concerns to that individual, it’s telling that neither Trump nor anyone else seriously questions the truth of the whistle-blower’s account of the phone call. That Trump pushed Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden is clearly confirmed by the White House’s own document memorializing the call.

Whether a majority of the House of Representatives votes to impeach Trump for that conduct isn’t the only crucial question facing Congress. Another is whether all or virtually all members of both the House and the Senate—including those who would choose not to vote to impeach or convict him—are prepared, individually and collectively, to condemn the president’s actions unequivocally. Trump and some of his supporters are now insisting that his efforts to have a foreign nation initiate an investigation of his potential political opponent were “totally appropriate” and “perfectly fine.” And there’s no doubt Trump himself thinks this sort of thing is standard operating procedure for the chief executive in dealing with foreign leaders: On Monday, The New York Times reported that Trump recently tried to enlist Australia’s prime minister in an effort to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

The boundaries of acceptable presidential behavior are defined by which actions the political system tolerates or condemns. Impeachment by the House and conviction in the Senate would be the most powerful congressional

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