Democrats need to start the impeachment process. Their core constituents are at risk.

The Ukraine phone call crosses the line where democrats need to move forward on the impeachment process. Their core constituents are at risk if they don’t.

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to address the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (Mary Altaffer/AP Photo)

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to address the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (Mary Altaffer/AP Photo)

Donald Trump held up almost $400 million in military funding to Ukraine while trying to pressure the country’s president to investigate Joe Biden’s son.

At least that’s the accusation that emerged after a whistleblower complained about a phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president.

If true, it means Trump tried to use taxpayer money to pressure a foreign leader into smearing a political opponent. And he was so comfortable in his corruption, so at ease with criminality, so sure that he would get away with it, that he did it over the phone.

Even common street criminals don’t engage in that kind of activity over the phone. While I’ve long believed that voting is the best way to address Trump’s behavior, I now believe the legislature must do something right now.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

It’s time to start impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.

This is not an easy thing for me to say. I believe it’s possible impeachment could backfire miserably. House Democrats who won seats in districts where Trump is popular, risk losing reelection if they vote to impeach the president. If enough of them lose their seats, Democrats could lose their majority in the House.

Not only that, but the Republican-dominated Senate is unlikely to reach the two-thirds majority necessary to remove the president from office.

That means the Democrats could start the impeachment process and end up in a worse political position than they were when the process started.

However, I believe Democrats must risk such political losses, because their core constituencies — including black people — face the most danger if Trump’s behavior is allowed to go unchecked.

He’s already called black countries shitholes. He’s referred to black communities as rat-infested. He’s demanded that black and brown members of Congress go back to their countries of origin.

I often wonder where Trump’s racist rhetoric could lead. But more than that, I wonder where his illegal behavior could lead. And make no mistake, soliciting help in a political campaign from a foreign leader is illegal.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Ellen Weintraub, Chairwoman of the Federal Elections Commission.

“Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office,” Weintraub wrote in a statement that was later shared on Twitter. “It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election. This is not a novel concept.”

She’s right, and that makes Trump’s behavior is even more egregious, because he’s done this kind of thing before.

Who can forget Trump standing at a podium on national television and saying, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” in reference to private emails Hillary Clinton deleted from her private email account.

The very same day, Russians tried to break into the servers used by Clinton’s personal office. Coincidence? Maybe.

But is it also a coincidence that 16 people working on Trump’s campaign were in contact with the Russians? Is it a coincidence that Trump’s son, campaign manager, and son-in-law met with Russians after a mutual friend said the Russian government wanted to offer Trump dirt on Hillary Clinton?

Is it a coincidence that after the Russians helped him win the first time, Trump is trying to work with another foreign government to do it all again?

I don’t think so.

If Donald Trump is bold enough to try to pressure foreign leaders into helping him smear his political enemies when he knows it’s illegal, Congressional Democrats should be bold enough to start the impeachment process.

I know it’s a political risk. I know things could go bad quickly. But I also know Americans are hungry to see something done about the president’s illegal behavior.

Starting the impeachment process could very well wake Americans up, and make us take action where it matters most — in the voting booth.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal