Pompeo, Democrats trade intimidation charges in Trump probe

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence participate in an Armed Forces welcome ceremony for the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019, at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Efforts to impeach and potentially remove President Donald Trump from office picked up momentum after the White House released a damning reconstruction of a July phone conversation between Trump and Ukraine President Vlodymyr Zelenskiy.

In the conversation, Trump pushed Zelenskiy to investigate the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and a disproven theory that Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election originated in Ukraine.

To Trump’s enemies, the president was coercing Zelenskiy into interfering with the 2020 election illegally and using some $400 million in suspended military aid as leverage. Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. The arms and money were essential to Ukraine’s ability to continue its fight.

The White House also released a whistleblower’s complaint concerning the call. It says records of the phone conversation were moved to a separate computer system reserved for classified information of an especially sensitive nature without any justification, raising concerns of an attempted cover-up.

There’s very low chance that Trump will be removed from office. While reports of the whistleblower complaint drove the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives to pursue an impeachment investigation, the Senate remains in Republican hands. There’s no reason to think Trump’s opponents there will ever muster the two-thirds vote needed to remove the president from the White House. A removal vote could force GOP senators to make a hard choice and weaken the president in the eyes of voters, but it also could solidify the president’s control of the Republican Party and give him momentum into 2020.

We don’t have the gift of precognition, but — whatever the results — it’s hard to see a path forward that doesn’t involve a political blood-letting. We pray that the blood is only metaphorical, that President Trump’s recently tweeted references to a coup and a new civil war are just chilling political hyperbole.

Is an impeachment investigation wise? Pragmatic? In the nation’s best interests? Such questions are essentially academic issues for the next generation of historians. There is no turning back. The curtain has risen on a political drama the likes of which have rarely been seen. We can only hope that it is not a national tragedy.

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