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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Common sense could have saved Trump and the U.S. from impeachment

President Donald Trump's defense attorney Jay Sekulow at

President Donald Trump's defense attorney Jay Sekulow at the Senate impeachment trial Tuesday. Credit: Senate TV via AP

President Donald Trump is due to be acquitted this week on charges he could have easily avoided in the first place.

His conduct created a need for the Senate GOP majority to protect him from removal following a Democratic impeachment vote in the House.

The resulting polarization made Trump more dependent than ever on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — a dynamic to remember if or when Trump is reelected in November.  

Nobody forced Trump in the first place to spend a diplomatic chit on Kremlin-endorsed "theories" about Ukraine meddling in the U.S. election.

The president could have simply listened to all his experts on the region, some of whom testified before the House.

Surely Trump could have figured out the difference between crafting U.S. foreign policy and ordering up negative research on Joe Biden. Campaigns do their own skulduggery at their own expense, usually with more effective results.

Trump chose to hire current nemesis John Bolton as national security adviser. He picked him long after Bolton became known for promoting an ill-founded Iraq War.

Now Bolton raises new doubts about the merits of acquittal — by stating Trump said behind closed doors he'd freeze U.S. security assistance to Ukraine until  "investigations" were announced.

Trump's budget office could have kept his GOP allies in Congress apprised of the status of arms aid for which they had voted. Then there might have been no backlash over the delay.

If there was nothing to hide, the White House could have complied with House requests for documents and witnesses.

Trump could have had someone brief him on the Constitution before making the weak assertion that Article II lets him do "whatever I want as president." 

He could have heeded Attorney General William Barr's widely publicized position that personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani's histrionics weren't serving him well. Or he could have changed lawyers once Giuliani's business associates were indicted at the behest of federal officials Trump appointed.

Luckily for Trump, former special counsel Robert Mueller chose not to recommend charges against him even if there was no exoneration.

But rather than chalk it up as a hard-earned lesson, the president invited further trouble by declaring on TV: "If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent' — oh, I think I'd want to hear it."

Did the Trump team expect Democrats not to react when the Ukraine scandal soon broke?

Trump could have stuck to the facts, even for a brief period. He didn't have to threaten to effectively nullify the powers of the House and then say troublesome things in private that would leak out.

But the president chose to do what he did.

Trump's Ukraine pressure won him nothing tangible — no knockout of rival Biden, no respect from Russia, no factual support for his conspiracy theories, no changes in arms strategies or corruption policies.

In an odd way, getting himself impeached took more effort than the common-sense steps he could have taken to prevent it.

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