President Donald Trump on Wednesday.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday. Credit: EPA/Jason Szenes

There is still time for President Donald Trump to try to plausibly explain how prodding a foreign leader to investigate a political rival and his son fits his job under the Constitution. 

It won't do just to say — as Trump did two days before his now-famous conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart — "I have an Article 2 where I have the right to do whatever I want as president."

Did he mean whatever he wants for the nation or whatever he wants for himself?

Maybe Trump or his factotum Rudy Giuliani can spell out — patiently, factually and accurately — what former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter allegedly did that warrants a shadow diplomatic operation.

Maybe Team Trump can give a legitimate reason how a conversation with a regional rival of Russian President Vladimir Putin turns to matters of Biden and Hillary Clinton. Or how this helps us improve relations with Russia as promised.

Maybe Trump can show how he acts in the interest of the nation and not just himself. For the moment, he has the most privileged platform in the world to do so. 

If he tries to do all that, he can start to heal divisions and defuse his latest scandal.

There's still time, but don't bet that he will do it.

Trump's vocational weapons of choice have not been reason, law, or negotiating deals. Instead, Trump play-acts the tough guy and makes noise for the "corrupt" and "fake" news media he pretends to have grievances against.

On Thursday he was recorded telling staffers of the U.S. mission to the UN that he wants to know who in the intelligence community complained about his contact with Volodymyr Zelensky, which sounded to that person like an improper shakedown.

A person who told the whistleblower about the conversation was “close to a spy,” he said, adding that “in the old days,” spies and "treason" were dealt with differently.

This kind of empty threat is just part of Trump's method of operating. 

The informant probably need not worry about Trump's bluster.

Acting Director of Intelligence Joseph Maguire told Congress on Thursday: "I want to state support for the whistleblower and the right and the laws," and that he or she "did the right thing."

Contrived shrieks about cabals and partisan hackery have issued from Trump's office and resorts since well before his election. "Lock her up" was shouted at Hillary Clinton, a Democrat running for president who he alleged mishandled government emails. Democratic President Barack Obama's citizenship was illegitimate, he suggested. 

Now the same goes for Biden, another Democrat running for president, who like Trump seems bent on advancing his son's career and income. 

Special Russiagate counsel Robert Mueller, who'd been a Republican longer than Trump, was falsely accused of leading a cabal of "angry Democrats" to destroy Trump — which didn't even turn out close to what happened.

Fired FBI Director James Comey, who also took down written records of what Trump said, won't be going to jail. But former private-sector Trump aides Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen already have. 

So far, the president's threats against government people who take bold action are just so much chin music.

For all we know, Trump may yet face trouble of his own for trying to oust Mueller. He used Corey Lewandowski as an off-payroll interloper who testified in so many words that he was brought in to help fix a probe.

Like many of Trump's backroom capers, it failed. Lewandowski never delivered a message to Attorney General Jeff Sessions as requested, and Mueller's work continued to fruition.

For better or worse, these congressional inquiries will play themselves out, too — while the president bemoans a "witch hunt" he might imagine to be different from the one that he and Giuliani asked Ukraine to conduct.