As America’s House impeachment inquiry gains verifying evidence, we are pausing today to recognize the one person who apparently single-handedly saved President Donald Trump from himself. And who also enabled Trump’s Republican supporters to keep reciting the only surviving argument they are making in his defense.

Trump and his defenders owe great gratitude to their leader’s rescuer, the individual publicly known only as The Whistleblower.

For we now know it was the disclosure to House Democrats of The Whistleblower’s courageous complaint (buried since July in the Justice Department) that forced Trump to instantly abandon his demands that Ukraine probe Trump’s Democratic opponents to get the $391 million in congressionally approved military aid he had frozen months earlier, as his demands went unfilled.

With the once-frozen military aid flowing through channels, Trump’s congressional Republicans supporters began voicing their one-note defense against Trump’s impeachment: U.S. military aid was released to Ukraine without any demands met – so no crime was committed.

If common sense ruled Washington, Republicans and Democrats would immediately agree on all the essentials. Or, if each of us switched the president’s name to be the one we most love to hate, we’d all come to the same conclusion. A U.S. president was caught in the act of attempting to bribe, extort or just plain strong-arm Ukraine’s president using your taxpayer dollars as his persuader to get political dirt on an opponent.

Now, here’s the actual timeline:

April 21: Volodymyr Zelenskiy is elected Ukraine president.

May 23: In an Oval Office meeting, when Trump’s advisers say Ukraine’s new president deserves U.S. support, Trump reportedly responds that Ukraine is filled with “terrible” corrupt people who “tried to take me down.”

July 10: At the White House, two Ukraine officials are told by U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland that a Zelenskiy-Trump meeting can only happen if Ukraine agrees to: (1) probe Burisma gas company that hired Joe Biden’s son, Hunter; (2) probe a discredited right-wing conspiracy theory that there was a Ukraine connection to the 2016 U.S. election cyber-sabotage.

July 18: An Office of Management and Budget official says Trump has frozen the $391 million in Ukraine military aid approved by Congress.

July 25: When Trump and Zelenskiy talk via phone, Zelenskiy mentions his need to buy U.S. anti-tank missiles (to fight Russian invaders); but Trump responds: “I would like you to do us a favor, though.” The Bidens and that 2016 election theory are discussed. WHISTLEBLOWER ALERT: An intelligence officer files a whistleblower complaint about Trump pushing Ukraine to do U.S. political dirt-digging favors to get U.S. military aid.

Sept. 1: Sondland tells a Ukraine official military aid won’t come until its president publicly announces probes of Biden-Burisma and the 2016 election Ukraine connection.

Sept. 11: Two days after a House committee learns of The Whistleblower’s complaint, Trump drops his demands and releases the Ukraine military aid.

At Wednesday’s House impeachment hearing, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., succinctly summed up the Republicans’ defense: “For the millions of Americans viewing today, the two most important facts are the following. Number one, Ukraine received the aid. Number two, there was in fact no investigation into Biden.”

So no crime? To understand the law-and-order reality this impeachment inquiry has devolved into, consider a cops-and-robbers variation: A man enters a bank, waving a gun, and orders a teller to fill his sack with money. But an unseen person presses a bank’s alarm button – a shrill whistle sounds. The would-be robber flees the bank with his empty sack – and runs into the arms of arriving police. “I got no money – so there was no crime,” the would-be robber claims. Do the cops free him? Of course not. They arrest him so he can be indicted and tried for attempted bank robbery.

Back to reality. Trump’s actions and conduct are clear. Trump’s attempted crime warrants being impeached/indicted by the House. But does that level of crime also warrant his conviction and removal from office by a most improbable two-thirds vote in the GOP-controlled Senate – just months before Americans elect their next president?

Unlikely and probably worse than unwise. Our nation is not just viscerally, but tribally split. Senate conviction could divide our United States in ways more profound than occurred during the Civil War. It would not merely divide us into North versus South. It would divide every state, and virtually every community, in ways that could actually shred us into dysfunctional tatters.

We are left with just one common-sense constitutional option: Impeachment by the House. Censure (but not conviction) by the Senate – to make the point that can be seen even by patriotic Republicans. Followed by Trump’s defeat through our democratic process on Election Day 2020. Unless Trump’s Grand Old Party elders help him see the light and convince him to not run again.

Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send him email at martin.schram@gmail.com.

Copyright 2019 Tribune Content Agency.

(21) comments

phydeaux994

Nancy Pelosi should say about Trump: “We're going to do everything — and I mean everything we can do — to kill it, stop it, slow it down, whatever we can.”....

Chuck Schumer should say: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for Trump to be a one-term president.”....

That is what John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, respectively, said about taking President Obama down.

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threecents

Of course Trump's recent Syrian withdraw also cost allied lives, and that was likely not due to Trump's corruption, but just due to stupidity. So then you could argue he has shown a pattern of stupidity, so why not assume his moves with Ukraine are due to corruption, rather than demonstrated stupidity. That, basically is Lindsey Graham's argument.

threecents

Sorry, I meant "...so why assume...", rather than "...so why NOT assume..."

gary4books

I can see your point, except for the Trump Towers in Turkey. I did wonder how much that was a factor.

threecents

Good column, but it leaves out testimony by Ambassador William Taylor that the delay in aid probably cost Ukraine lives. Their war with Russia is not over. Allied lives were probably lost because of Trump.

DickD

Trump needs to negotiate now, to stay out of jail after leaving as POTUS.

Dwasserba

" A man enters a bank, waving a gun, and orders a teller to fill his sack with money. But an unseen person presses a bank’s alarm button – a shrill whistle sounds. The would-be robber flees the bank with his empty sack – and runs into the arms of arriving police. 'I got no money – so there was no crime,' the would-be robber claims. Do the cops free him? Of course not. They arrest him so he can be indicted and tried for attempted bank robbery." I repeat this analogy for the commenters who won't read that far into the article.

public-redux

Alternatively, attempted murder is a crime even if no one dies.

hayduke2

Logic and objective analysis of the issue is not a strong point of the defenders of the current president's actions.

Obadiah Plainsmen

So let's carry this analogy out further. The allege robber is held under "House" arrest in the oval cell until the indictments are unsealed. The indictments are made public and trial begins. The Judge is selected and 100 ( minus a few ) jurors are chosen. There is no burden of proof in this trial and no reasonable doubt needed, so obviously the prosecution has the upper hand. All the prosecution has to do is convince 3/4 of the jurors that a High crime and misdemeanor was committed to get a guilty conviction. The trial begins and at the end the prosecution rests their case. The jurors go into session to cast their vote. The alleged robber waits in his oval cell under "House" arrest to hear of his fate. The word comes to him quickly that he was acquitted of all charges. The "House" arrested is lifted and the oval cell returns to the regular identification as oval office. He is now a free man, free to go about his business. No longer an "allege robber" he continues on the campaign trial.

hayduke2

Nice try at spinning and diverting. Regardless of your spin, it is unfortunate that tribal politics will prevail in the Senate and place party above country. PS - I would love to see this tried with a real jury who would vote based on evidence and not trying to save their party. So much for pledging to " uphold the constitution." Faux patriots, one and all.

gary4books

It seems that the impeachment process may have one of two outcomes: either the POTUS goes and everyoenelse stays or if the Senators go way out to save the President, they go when voters turn on them. This is a tough row to hoe for those who have to mislead or ie to win.

awteam2000

“So let's carry this analogy out further. The allege robber is held under "House" arrest in the oval cell until the indictments are unsealed. The indictments are made public and trial begins. The Judge is selected and 100 ( minus a few ) jurors are chosen.”

So Obadiah, let’s continue the analogy through a natural progression (simple rules) - This isn’t a ‘state judiciary criminal trial’ risking personal freedom, where due process applies - but an impeachment process. The risk to the ‘accused’ is removal from office, as addressed in the constitution. You know, just like it’s addresses the winning of the presidency, it doesn’t take an ‘outright’ majority to hold the office of but simply winning the ‘electoral college’, it’s the constitution. That’s how our forefathers setup the government to roll.

Got a problem with it?🤔

Obadiah Plainsmen

Nope no problem at all. I like the electoral college 2nd A in fact I like the entire constitution. And if you would reread my comment you would find that I'm in agreement with you about the process. The Impeachment process is very simple and should go to the Senate to vote today. A yes or no answer to a very simple question. Do you believe the President committed High crimes and misdemeanors? What say you?

hayduke2

op - seemed to have left out the bribery part. "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

threecents

OP, So there is a bank robber who is let free, but a bank robber should be locked up, whether he is good at robbing banks or not. "Lock him up." Right? Say it with me.

Obadiah Plainsmen

Although the jury set the bank robber free, as in not convicted you still want to lock him up? Do you think it justified to lock him up just because you hate him? In the 20th Century Lenin/Stalin/Hitler/Pol Pot/Idi Amin had the same kind of justice system.

awteam2000

Obadiah, what’s the rush?

Have you moved on from ‘where’s the Whistleblower’, ‘Trump didn’t do nothin’ to ‘the process is a hoax’. Or are you now accepting -he did it - but it’s not impeachable?”

Yes he’s guilty. Soliciting help from a foreign government to get dirt on your political opponent is a high crime and impeachable. His actions undercut our political process from foreign interference in our elections and maybe even treasonable. If not impeached and removed from office will make use very vulnerable to outside foreign influence in the future. Is that a good thing?

As well as other actions, I would have impeached him by now. Like his written response to the Mueller investigation, under oath, which has now been shown to be lies (he perjured himself) demonstrated in the admission and testimonies resulting in a guilty verdict in the Roger Stone Court trial.

Stupid isn’t a defense.

Do you?

gary4books

The "almost crook" says "Arrest that whistle blower."

gary4books

Why ask "who decides?" The Constitution is very clear - the Senate decides. And then we evaluate the Senate on their decision. If the decision is bad enough, some Senators may not be elected again. Simple and clear. Why write a whole article to push another opinion? OK. A "potboiler." Thanks.

sevenstones1000

The article does not push “another opinion”. It pushes the facts of the timeline.

Trump did not release congressionally-allocated funds to Ukraine until he was caught red handed and the walls were closing it.

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