EDITORIAL: The real focus

Probe of Trump must seek truth, not political advantage

President Donald Trump speaks about the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Some Americans have called for impeachment proceedings against President Trump’s almost since he took office. On Tuesday they got their wish; after months of resisting those calls, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal inquiry into whether or not the president should be removed from office.

The investigation doesn’t mean impeachment is assured. Essentially, this is like a grand jury convening to review evidence in a case. A vote to impeach would be like a formal indictment, indicating that they believe there’s enough evidence to try the case. Declining to impeach would be like a no-bill, in which formal charges are never brought against the accused.

Most observers believe that even if the House votes to impeach, the Senate, which adjudicates the case, won’t provide the two-thirds voted needed to remove the president from office.

We trust that all those involved in the process will focus objectively on the facts and evidence, and not base their decisions on political expediency.

Many people think Pelosi resisted calls for impeachment probes because she believes the Senate wouldn’t convict, and the process would rally Trump’s supporters and improve his reelection chances.

The speaker called for an investigation after Trump confirmed he had asked the president of the Ukraine to provide any information that might exist on any improper activity by former Vice President Joe Biden, who currently is Trump’s top Democratic Party challenger in the 2020 presidential race. Biden’s son served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company during the father’s term as vice president.

Trump requested the information after he announced he was delaying a military aid payment that Congress had authorized for Ukraine.

The impeachment inquiry should determine if withholding the payment, coupled with Trump’s request, can be considered extortion, and if Trump abused the authority of his office in requesting dirt on his political opponent. Ukrainian officials on Friday said they didn’t give the president any such information on the Bidens.

In the past, people have said the president should be impeached for other perceived misdeeds, such as allegedly violating U.S. and international law regarding the treatment of refugees or defying Congress’ constitutional authority over the budget by diverting funds from other line items to fund his border wall plans. And it’s unknown if the current investigation will include those allegations.

We hope that fears of politics influencing either side won’t be realized. House members should look at the facts and determine objectively if impeachable offenses actually occurred; they should not base their votes on whether or not they wish this president would just go away.

If Trump is impeached, the Senate should the give all evidence full consideration, and not vote on whether or not they fear losing political power if the president is removed.

That ultimate decision is up to the voters, and it will be made in November 2020. In the meantime, all those involved should remember that their sworn allegiance is not to the president or to their party, but to our nation and the Constitution that governs it.