Who are we, America?
We have arrived at another crossroads to our future. And yet again we are forced to decide if we are still a nation that stands for honor.
Americans have been in this spot many times before. Sometimes we forged ahead with dignity; other times we faltered because we weren’t sure whether one path would be any less treacherous than the other.
This time, though, we have a road map.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has given us the gift of truth, meticulously laid out in a 448-page document that proves beyond doubt that our democracy has been severely compromised. Forces that despise everything our nation stands for have jeopardized the values that Americans deem most precious.
We have been under attack for a very long time, and little has been done to stop it.
In the second paragraph of the report, Mueller declared that the Russian government “interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” It went on to reveal the far-reaching scope of Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s blatant campaign to elect Donald Trump to office.
And it documented in no uncertain terms that Trump, though maybe not complicit, was at least amenable to the idea.
The information in the report reaffirms and offers more insight into what U.S. intelligence officials already had uncovered about the 2016 meddling — that Russian trolls used bogus social media accounts and other cyberspace activities to dupe Americans.
At the same time, representatives of the Russian government were meeting with members of Trump’s campaign and other associates to discuss “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, personal business deals and U.S. policies on Russia.
We know that the Russian assault did not begin with Trump’s campaign. National security officials began warning Barack Obama’s administration of the threats in 2014. There were failures by both Democrats and the Republican-controlled Congress. But what Trump did was un-American. After trying to capitalize on the Russian hacks, the new president questioned U.S. intelligence and publicly sided with Putin in denying the Russian leader’s role.
On Friday, Trump continued the tirade in a series of Twitter posts referring to the document as the “Crazy Mueller Report” written by “18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters.” He insisted that statements made about him in the report were “fabricated & totally untrue.”
Trump betrayed us, and he will do it again if we let him. Maybe his actions were not criminal, but they certainly were not honorable. For nearly three years, he has been driven by self-preservation, with little regard for America’s best interests.
Throughout the two-year investigation, the president tried desperately to shut Mueller down. It is clear from the report that Trump’s advisers had to save him from himself. At each turn, someone with a cooler head and an unclouded vision prevailed.
Trump didn’t just deceive Democrats. He let down Republicans, independents and every other American. None of us can trust this president to fight on our behalf. Only we, the ones with the most at stake, can save our democracy from further peril.
But first, we must decide if this is a challenge we want to take on, not as another useless exercise in partisan politics but as a unified front. This is not a decision that should be left entirely in the hands of Democrats or made solely by Republicans.
These are questions for everyone. How much does democracy mean to us? And how far are we willing to go to defend our nation’s honor?
Mueller offered plenty of reasons Congress might use to impeach Trump. To many of those who have been waiting anxiously for Trump’s disruptive behavior to catch up with him, Thursday may have seemed like judgment day. But this cannot be about vengeance.
So let’s step back a moment. Within our polarized Congress, such an endeavor surely would be an exercise in futility. No one can win such a partisan battle. For a change, we need to be on the same team.
If you’d ask Americans which policies are most important — with economic and security concerns less prominent now — they would say affordable health care, improving the educational system and preserving Social Security and Medicare, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.
Democracy affords Americans the opportunity to choose our own values. These are the things we have deemed most important. We must do whatever is necessary to preserve them. That would require the miracle of Republicans and Democrats working together.
Democrats cannot spend the next 19 months fighting an impeachment battle alone that cannot possibly lead to Trump’s removal. And it’s time for Republicans to take their heads out of the sand and admit that this presidency is not worth saving.
Trump is a danger to our democracy. He is a threat to our nation’s honor.
Republicans who fear another four years under Trump must insist that Republicans in Congress not sit this one out. But if Republicans take a pass, Democrats have no option but to put their trust in voters to impeach in 2020.
Mueller painted a disturbing picture of how irresponsibly Trump responds under pressure. There is no greater pressure on a president than to be re-elected. What might we see from him the next time?
For America’s sake, Congress must follow Mueller’s road map in lockstep and take our nation’s honor out of the hands of a dishonorable man.
Dahleen Glanton wrote this for the Chicago Tribune.