Impeachment is a political process, which is why it has taken this long for the House of Representatives to pursue any of a number of Trump administration offenses — self-dealing, obstruction of justice, evasion of Senate confirmation for appointees, and violations of the mysterious emoluments clause of the Constitution. While each of these might be worthy avenues for removal from office, they have murky elements, making it complicated for members of the House to explain to constituents in their home districts, even if they support an impeachment investigation in theory. It has often been said that if you weren’t for impeachment already, you were not paying attention, but nothing has been quite enough.
The Ukrainian matter is different; it’s obvious, easy to understand, and blatant. In it, the president has already admitted publicly to asking a foreign leader for potentially harmful information about former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, who had been on the board of a Ukrainian company during some of the Obama years. Using the power of the presidency for personal gain — hurting his chief rival in the upcoming election — is without question illegal.
In a notable, if quiet move, the Republican-led Senate voted Tuesday to ask the White House to hand over to Congress a whistle-blower’s complaint about the Ukrainian mess, which the president has refused to do although it is clearly required by law.
When consensus was reached this week among the leaders of the House, it was not because the severity of the alleged crime had gone beyond all those that preceded it. Rather, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi made her announcement on Tuesday that an impeachment process was underway, it was because the offense was so obvious and easy for voters to understand in an instant that it left her and Americans of good conscience with no other choice.