Testimony on the US president’s dealings with Ukraine reminds us that his enablers are just as culpable for the diminishment of the highest office in the land
Republicans push the bar ever lower. This president still cannot clear it. Even a month ago, Democrats were at pains to stress that a request for foreign interference in domestic politics was impeachable in and of itself, whether or not Donald Trump had offered a quid pro quo to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. There was a principled reason for this. Mr Trump and his supporters should not be allowed to present the manipulation of US diplomacy for private interests as normal practice. A country like Ukraine is hardly in a position to antagonise the American president; no explicit threat or inducement need be added to the scales. But in any case, the bargaining simply makes a terrible act much worse.
Of course, the Democrats had a pragmatic reason for drawing the line: the knowledge that it might be hard to prove the attempted trading of interests. This is why Tuesday’s testimony to impeachment inquiry hearings by Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Kyiv, drew gasps. It is not a surprise to anyone that the president should pursue such a course. But Mr Taylor, a veteran diplomat, laid out clearly, precisely and damningly how Mr Trump sought to make a summit meeting and military aid to Ukraine conditional on its government launching two investigations: one into his political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and another into the conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine (not Russia) that interfered in the 2016 election to benefit Hillary Clinton (rather than Mr Trump).