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APTOPIX Trump editorial

President Donald Trump listens during a meeting at the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday in New York.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Try as Republicans will to distract the American public and label the impeachment inquiry a witch hunt, there is no escaping the hard truth that President Donald Trump solicited help from a foreign leader for his 2020 campaign, an act that U.S. law specifically forbids. Republican leaders in Congress find themselves, once again, scrambling furiously to concoct a believable defense for a man whose conduct is indefensible.

Trump’s recklessness and divisiveness is exhausting the nation’s patience. How far will GOP leaders in Congress allow Trump to drag this country down before they stand in defense of the Constitution?

Make no mistake: There’s a troubling coincidence between former Vice President Joe Biden’s intervention in 2014 to urge the ouster of Ukraine’s chief prosecutor and son Hunter Biden’s appointment to the board of a gas company owned by a corrupt, Russia-friendly Ukrainian oligarch. Hunter Biden received upwards of $50,000 a month in that role, a shocking change of fortunes for someone who had just been dismissed from the Navy Reserve after testing positive for cocaine.

If Joe Biden was involved in illegality, let the Justice Department initiate an investigation and follow leads. But so far, five years after those developments, investigators seem not to have uncovered prosecutable violations.

Trump had no apparent authority to launch his independent corruption probe and bring in his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to follow up with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Trump — who has paid off a porn star, bragged about sexually abusing women and openly urged Russia to meddle in the 2016 presidential campaign — ranks as the most corrupt U.S. president since Richard Nixon.

Trump was on a singular mission in the July 25 phone call with Zelenskiy: to dig up dirt on Biden, his likely rival in the 2020 presidential race. The fact that he brought Giuliani into the conversation underscores that this had nothing to do with Trump’s executive authority and everything to do with his political campaign.

Juxtaposed with Trump’s inexplicable decision before July to suspend nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine, there is more than ample justification for the House of Representatives to proceed with its impeachment inquiry. In the transcript released Wednesday, Zelenskiy raised his country’s military-assistance needs. Trump invoked the word “reciprocal” and immediately asked Zelenskiy “to do us a favor” by helping investigate Joe Biden and his son.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., accurately labeled the exchange a “classic, Mafia-like shakedown of a foreign country.”

How far must a president go in betraying his country before Republicans finally declare that he no longer represents their values? How much crisis, chaos and scandal can Republicans, exhausted from constantly defending him, tolerate before they decide enough’s enough? The time has come for Republicans to stand up for the Constitution, stand up for America, and tell Trump to step down.