IT’S BEEN MORE than three weeks since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that Congress would begin an impeachment inquiry of President Trump.
She acted after reports surfaced that the president had pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his potential rivals in the 2020 election. Those allegations, however, only scratched the surface of the president’s mind-boggling corruption, law-breaking, and abuse of power.
For those who have struggled to keep up with the torrent of impeachable offenses that have emerged, here’s a brief recap.
With the release in late September of the whistle-blower complaint against Trump and the White House’s summary of his phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky the initial allegations against the president were confirmed.
Since then text messages have been released by Congressional investigators, which show US diplomats plotting a quid pro quo that involved exchanging a White House visit for Zelensky in return for the Ukrainian government investigating an unproven conspiracy theory alleging meddling in the 2016 campaign and Hunter Biden’s dealings with a Ukrainian gas company.
This week, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admitted that congressionally mandated military assistance to Ukraine had been held up in return for Ukraine looking into the 2016 election (he would later try to retract his confession).
In case anyone doubted that Trump was capable of such a shocking abuse of presidential power, he publicly asked Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens while standing on the White House lawn.
The president’s Ukraine machinations were quarterbacked by his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who according to testimony from former White House and State Department officials was running a shadow foreign policy for the president in Ukraine.
Giuliani has taken credit for the firing of US Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch — a step Trump allegedly took because she was blocking his efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate the former vice president and his family.
Now Giuliani is facing growing legal scrutiny. He is under criminal investigation by the Southern District of New York — an office he once helmed.
Two of Giuliani’s shadier clients were recently arrested at Dulles airport with one-way tickets to Vienna and are in custody now. The men had paid $500,000 to Giuliani for consulting services — and the money appears to have come from a Ukrainian oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin who is fighting extradition to the United States and had also sought to get Yovanovitch fired.
The former New York mayor also apparently enlisted Trump’s help in pressuring then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to swap an American held in Turkey for a Giuliani client who was in a US jail facing charges of violating sanctions on Iran.
In the past few weeks, we’ve also found out that Attorney General Bill Barr (who simply acts like the president’s personal lawyer) has been traveling around the world seeking foreign assistance in an investigation intended to undermine the conclusions of the Mueller Report.
Back at the White House, the president has repeatedly accused Representative Adam Schiff of committing treason for paraphrasing the summary of his call with Zelensky. He has called for the impeachment of several members of Congress; warned of a “civil war” if he’s removed from office; and repeatedly threatened the whistle-blower.
Last week his White House counsel sent a letter to the House of Representatives labeling the impeachment inquiry “constitutionally illegitimate.” Not surprisingly, the White House has refused to comply with repeated House subpoenas seeking information for its investigation.
Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors, however, are not just limited to the whistle-blower’s allegations. This week he announced that the next G-7 summit will be held at one of his resorts in Miami — a brazen act of profiting from the presidency that even for Trump is jaw-dropping.
There is still the matter of the Mueller Report — and the 10 incidents of obstruction of justice that it exhaustively detailed — which has somehow been flushed down the national memory hole. Three weeks ago we got a reminder of those matters when the Washington Post revealed that days after he fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, Trump told the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office that he knows Moscow interfered in the 2016 election and he has no problem with it. There is also the issue of Trump’s abandonment of the Syrian Kurds, his aiding and abetting of ethnic cleansing by Turkish forces in northern Syria, and his diplomatic surrender to Turkey. But that’s one of the challenges of covering the president — it’s virtually impossible to keep up with his unending malfeasance.
Indeed, if the last three weeks have shown us anything, it is to confirm what many of us already knew: Trump commits impeachable offenses on a regular, if not daily basis. Impeachment is long overdue, but so too is his removal from office. Trump’s continued tenure as president puts the nation — and our democratic institutions — in grave danger.Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.