Seldom do we recognize historical turning points as they unfold. Today, we stand at a crucial crossroads in the life of our republic.
Three years ago candidate Donald Trump welcomed and accepted help from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who helped Mr. Trump win the 2016 presidential election. To this day, President Trump has never fully admitted this fact, which was firmly established in a detailed report by special prosecutor Robert Mueller and his investigatory team. That alone was precedent-setting. However, while the Mueller investigation was ongoing, the president ordered the special prosecutor fired. While President Trump’s order was never executed, his action nevertheless constituted an obstruction of justice for which there was no consequence.
Now, we confront disturbing and credible allegations that President Trump schemed along with his subordinates to pressure the nation of Ukraine to manufacture political dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, a top rival for Trump’s job in the upcoming 2020 election. And until the Ukraine acceded to President Trump’s request for a favor, significant U.S. military aid to the besieged Ukraine would be held hostage.
After this latest Trump scandal came to light, Trump and his loyal backers went on the defensive using a tried-and-true propaganda tactic of deflect and distract. This meant that they would push a baseless conspiracy theory insisting that then-Vice President Joe Biden had a Ukrainian chief prosecutor fired so that the prosecutor would not investigate the vice president’s son, Hunter, who Trump backers claim had committed a crime while serving as a board member of a Ukrainian natural gas company. While Hunter Biden received an enviable paycheck for his work on the board, a robust investigation of him by the Ukrainian government turned up no unlawful wrongdoing, none. As such, then-Vice President Joe Biden could not have protected his son, as the conspiracy theory goes, from prosecution because there had been no wrongdoing in the first place. More importantly, the Ukrainian prosecutor whom Joe Biden supposedly had fired was actually being pushed out of office by his own government, other friendly nations, and non-governmental agencies alike because this prosecutor was shirking his duty, ironically, to rid the nation of dogged corruption!
The impeachment inquiry launched by the House of Representatives is seeking to establish through evidence (documentation, text messages, call transcript(s), and testimony, etc.) the charges first lodged in the famous whistleblower complaint against President Trump. These charges, if substantiated, would represent an abuse of power by the president. Most pointedly, it has been credibly alleged that the president used the power of the executive branch to further his own political agenda when he pressured a foreign nation to provide political dirt to smear the candidacy of Joe Biden, eliminating a potential Trump rival for the White House in 2020. If true, the president would have recklessly placed self-interest above that of our republic and the well-being of its people.
Imagine, if you will, the frightening prospect wherein incumbents are permitted de facto to solicit and obtain foreign intelligence, fabricated or not, with the intention of manipulating the results of our national elections! For example, future Republicans might call upon Moscow for help given Putin’s previous support of their candidate Donald Trump. Democrats, in turn, would feel compelled to solicit help from another foreign nation simply to level the playing field! With each election cycle, our national elections would become more and more the plaything of foreign nations — both friends and foes alike.
Surely, we Americans must agree that allowing a president to pressure a foreign government to interfere in our national elections is an abuse of power. Any president found to have abused his power in this manner must be held strictly accountable. The dreadful consequence of doing nothing would deal a severe blow to the heart of the republic by extinguishing public confidence in the legitimacy of our national democratic elections.
The writer is a Rhode Island state senator representing District 36 in North Kingstown and Narragansett. He resides in North Kingstown.