Press: Where's the smoking gun?

It’s tempting to compare the impeachment inquiry against Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDonald Trump Jr. calls Bruce Springsteen's dropped charges 'liberal privilege' Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow McConnell says he'd back Trump as 2024 GOP nominee MORE to the aborted attempt to impeach Richard Nixon, especially since Trump is channeling Nixon by stonewalling Congress: no documents, no witnesses, no cooperation. But the similarities end there.

Unlike with Nixon, there’s no need to ask the Howard Baker question: “What did the president know and when did he know it?” This time around, we know what Donald Trump knew, and said, and did on his phone call with the president of Ukraine. Because he told us so. And, this time, there’s no need to look for the smoking gun. Because Donald Trump himself handed us the smoking gun.

The House of Representatives could not have a clearer case for impeachment in front of it: The president of the United States, in a phone call from the Oval Office, asked the president of Ukraine to intervene in the 2020 presidential election by digging up dirt on his political opponent. At the same time — in an implied, if not direct quid pro quo — Trump dangled $400 million in military aid and a visit to the White House for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Then, for good measure, Trump asked China to do the same thing.


In so many words, Trump offered Zelensky aid for dirt. Those are the facts of the call. And those facts have already been confirmed by the summary of the call released by the White House; the whistleblower complaint; copies of texts between Trump emissaries released last week by the House Intelligence Committee; and by Trump himself, who doesn’t deny asking Zelensky to investigate Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden 'disappointed' in Senate parliamentarian ruling but 'respects' decision Taylor Swift celebrates House passage of Equality Act Donald Trump Jr. calls Bruce Springsteen's dropped charges 'liberal privilege' MORE. He just repeatedly insists there was nothing wrong with it. It was a “perfect” call.

Not only that. Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on Biden have been further confirmed in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee by former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and by Fiona Hill, Trump’s former top aide on Russia and European Affairs.

And, in what may prove to be most damning testimony of all, Gordon Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the EU, will reportedly tell the committee on Thursday that when he asserted there was no “quid pro quo” demanded by the Trump administration in its discussions with Ukraine, he was only voicing what Trump told him to say in a phone call. According to The Washington Post, Sondland will testify he did not know whether what Trump told him was true or not, he simply repeated it.

What more evidence do you need? This impeachment cake is cooked. And make no mistake about it. Accepting or soliciting help from a foreign government in an American election is against the law. As FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub told ABC News: “It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election.” And, most importantly, except for the most brain-dead of Trump supporters, it’s an impeachable offense.

Which doesn’t mean House Democrats should rush into impeachment. They need to judiciously strengthen their case by acquiring documents, holding hearings, and interviewing witnesses — to the extent they can, despite Trump’s stonewalling. But they can’t let it drag on forever, either.

It’s not that complicated. Forget all the distractions raised by Trump supporters. In the end, there’s only one question Republicans and Democrats in Congress must answer: Is it OK for any president to ask another country to meddle in an American election? Surely, Congress can answer that question by Thanksgiving.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”