Rendell: Impeaching Trump is the right thing to do

Rendell: Impeaching Trump is the right thing to do
© Aaron Schwartz - Greg Nash

There is so much happening, and so quickly, on the national political scene that, to quote former Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode, “It boggles the entire mind.” If you have read my periodic columns in The Hill, you know I was an opponent of impeaching President TrumpDonald John TrumpWHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Trump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage MORE because I believed the Mueller report did not lay out a persuasive rationale and because, as a pragmatist, I knew that even if the House impeached the president we would never get enough Republican votes to convict in the Senate — so I felt the only thing that would be accomplished in the process would be to fire up the president’s base and make him even harder for Democrats to defeat in the 2020 election. 

However, the events concerning the president’s contact with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky have changed my mind. Although I still don't believe enough Republican senators will have the guts to do the right thing and protect the security of our country, I believe the president’s conduct in asking for “a favor” — that is, for Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage Schiff: Whistleblower testimony might not be necessary Trump warns Democrats will lose House seats over impeachment MORE and his son’s conduct in Ukraine — was such an egregious abuse of power that, even if there is a political downside to impeachment, the U.S. Constitution obligates Congress to move forward with it.

One thing should be clear: When President Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to investigate Biden and his son, he violated a federal law that says it is a crime for a foreign nation to do anything to help a federal candidate; the president would be guilty of solicitation to commit such a crime. What people should understand is that criminal offense does not require a quid pro quo. Notwithstanding it not being required, the president’s words — “I would like you to do me a favor, though” — and the subsequent email exchange between former Special Representative to Ukraine Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerGOP lawmaker: Democrats cherry-picking what to leak in impeachment inquiry In testimony, Dems see an ambassador scorned, while GOP defends Trump Cracks emerge in White House strategy as witness testifies MORE, Ambassador to Europe Gordon Sondland and Acting Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor make it obvious that there was to be a definite quid pro quo.

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Although political realities would dictate that this process be completed as quickly as possible, things are unfolding so fast that some degree of patience should be applied to see how many impeachable offenses may be outlined in the charges. 

A few days after the November 2018 election, I wrote in a column for The Hill that said it was OK for House Democrats to investigate some of the abuses of this president, but that it was equally important for the House to continue to legislate and not just investigate. Under the leadership of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden on impeachment: 'I'm the only reason' it's happening Democrats to offer resolution demanding Trump reverse Syria decision Rand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter MORE (D-Calif.), Democrats have done a fairly good job of this, passing bills that would:

We continue to legislate while we investigate and, in the next few months, pass bills putting some real teeth in gun control, setting forth a national infrastructure revitalization plan and legalizing the Dreamers, to name just a few. But in the face of President Trump’s campaign ad onslaught, it is important for House Democrats or the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to spend money now to let the public know the important legislation that they have passed and sent to the Senate — which Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Republicans wrestle with impeachment strategy Mattis warns 'ISIS will resurge' without U.S. pressure on Syria MORE (R-Ky.) and President Trump have vowed to not even bring to a vote. 

It’s doubtful that one in 10 Americans could name one bill the Democratic-controlled House has passed and sent to the Senate. If we are to make the country understand that we have been legislating as well as investigating, we need to spend money now — before we get into the heavy political months that lie ahead. This is vitally important because, although the view in Washington may be that impeachment is the only thing on the voters’ minds, it isn’t. Most voters have an opinion about impeachment, but they are more concerned about issues that involve them personally. 

Democrats vowed that we would “legislate and not just investigate.” We have made good on that promise and now we have to tell the American people what we have done. If we do so convincingly, 2020 could indeed be a very good year.

Edward G. Rendell was the 45th governor of Pennsylvania. He is a former mayor of Philadelphia and former district attorney in that city. He served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the 2000 presidential election. He is now co-chairman of the Immigration Task Force at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Follow him on Twitter @GovEdRendell.