So here's where things stand: We have a president who not only abuses the power of his office but flaunts it, and a political system incapable of doing anything about it.
That President Donald Trump would coerce - and possibly extort - a foreign power to launch an investigation aimed at damaging his leading political opponent takes his misconduct to an entirely new level. Yet leading Republicans remain silent. Once again, we are left wondering what, exactly, he would have to do to draw any sort of condemnation from a party that still marches behind him in lockstep, no matter where he takes them.
The facts have been established. We already know that Trump, in a July 25 call with Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, pressured that government to open an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden, who currently leads in most polls for the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump in next year's presidential election. Biden's son Hunter showed sketchy judgment in doing business in Ukraine while his father was in office, but the matter has already been thoroughly scrutinized, and there has not been a shred of evidence that the vice president did anything inappropriate on Hunter Biden's behalf. After Trump put pressure on Zelensky, Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani amped it up in at least one meeting with an associate of the Ukraine leader. All of this was going on as Trump was holding up $250 million in military aid that Ukraine badly needs to fend off a threat from the Russians to the east.
Many Democrats have made the case that this is impeachable behavior on Trump's part. Many others - including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. - point out that impeaching Trump would be a futile gesture, because the Republican-led Senate would never vote to remove him from office. Those who are resisting impeachment also raise a valid concern that, whatever the merits, the backlash over a drawn-out impeachment proceeding could actually help Trump win a second term.
This argument will continue, with new fuel being added by the administration's refusal to turn over a whistleblower's complaint regarding the Trump-Zelensky conversation. It is hard to see how it could possibly be resolved before we are well into the 2020 campaign season. But there is something the House could do right now, an idea that I have raised before: censure the president.