It’s time for Democrats in the U.S. House to open the doors and let the public see the evidence they’re gathering in their ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Despite the attempts by the Trump White House to obstruct the investigation, a growing list of both current and former U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials have now defied the White House and testified before the House Intelligence Committee, led by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
The substance of that testimony is astonishing. As longtime U.S. diplomat William Taylor testified on Tuesday, President Trump and his political allies clearly conditioned U.S. military aid on the willingness of Ukraine’s new president to publicly announce investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden and a widely debunked conspiracy theory that dates back to the 2016 campaign. That’s consistent with the words of President Trump’s own interim chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who admitted late last week that the aid was conditioned on Ukraine’s willingness to investigate President Trump’s political opponents. In other words, according to Mulvaney, exactly the quid pro quo that the president and his backers have sought to deny. While Mulvaney later tried to walk it back, after his comments ignited a firestorm, his initial admission was problematic in the Trump White House only because it was true.
The evidence is increasingly indisputable, which is why Republicans are focusing their political attacks on a process they claim is unfair. They can no longer defend the president’s actions based on substance because they all know that President Trump abused the power of his office by attempting to extort a foreign leader for his own personal political gain. This is, without a doubt, the most clearly impeachable act ever committed by an American president, at least to the public’s knowledge.
Why such important testimony is happening behind closed doors is a mystery. While the U.S. Constitution leaves the procedure of impeachment entirely to Congress, there is valuable history that suggests that the public is best served by an open and transparent process. The Watergate hearings, in particular, were instrumental in laying the groundwork for the resignation of President Nixon. Back then, the American people watched the Watergate hearings with high interest and the shocking revelations that came almost daily exposed the extent of corruption that had undermined the Nixon White House. Those hearings informed the American public and, in the process, generated the national consensus that it was time for Nixon to go.
And that is what is necessary with President Trump. We believe history will eventually judge the corruption of the Trump White House to be far worse on many fronts than we experienced during Nixon’s era, but unless and until there is a broad consensus on the fact that Donald Trump is unfit for the nation’s highest office, efforts to remove him will fail.
While GOP complaints about secrecy in the ongoing inquiry are politically motivated, that does not mean that they are illegitimate. All Americans, including Republicans, deserve to hear about the actions and conversations at the heart of these allegations.
For now, the Democrats’ closed-door policy is giving Republicans a key talking point in their efforts to head off impeachment. So is the decision by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold off on a vote to open an impeachment inquiry. Historically, that has been the opening act of any impeachment process and Democrats should lay down that marker and get on with it.
In the end, it comes down to transparency. When national security requires that discussions happen behind closed doors, that’s understandable. In the current circumstance, however, our national security depends on exposing the facts publicly so the American people, and the members of Congress who represent them, can make an informed decision on the president’s actions. When it comes to government, sunshine is, invariably, the best disinfectant.