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Ukrainian incident is similar to what happened in 2016

Then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Charlotte,

Then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 26, 2016. Credit: AP / Evan Vucci

Stunningly, there is no disagreement about the facts of the 300-page House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment report against Donald Trump.

Trump tried to force a foreign nation to interfere in the 2020 presidential election until a CIA whistleblower told the world Trump was holding hostage $400 million in congressional funding to get what he wanted. Then Trump obstructed Congress by preventing aides from testifying or supplying subpoenaed documents.

Amazingly, there is enormous disagreement on whether this was wrong.

Democrats say Trump’s behavior was unconstitutional, criminal, a blow against democracy and an overwhelming abuse of power. Their report found so many leads of troubling White House activity designed to personally benefit Trump politically they decided not even to investigate them all and said such activity is ongoing.

Democrats say Trump risked U.S. national security by trying to hurt Ukraine, our ally, to benefit our enemy, Russia.

Republicans, led by the White House, say Trump’s intent to evade the law doesn’t matter because after the whistleblower went to his superior who went to Congress, Trump pulled back.

Basically, they — and Trump — have decided that while the president did try to leverage foreign aid to get around Congress to persuade Ukraine to launch a phony investigation of his potential rival Joe Biden, it just doesn’t matter.

Republicans say that even though Congress cleared Ukraine to receive $400 million because of its new reform-minded president, Ukraine’s past corruption under a pro-Russian president gave Trump reason enough to hold up the aid it needed to fight Russia.

Not surprisingly, the Ukraine incident is highly reminiscent of what happened in 2016.

Two dozen Russians have been indicted for manipulating the 2016 U.S. election in Trump’s favor and they worked with top people in Trump’s campaign. Special prosecutor Robert Mueller decided Department of Justice policy precludes indicting a president, so Trump walked away from the charges of obstruction of justice of which Mueller found him guilty.

And now, importantly, the swell toward approval of impeachment – and the eventual removal — of Trump has stalled. It’s the holiday season, and Americans are tired of everything Washington. And Russian. And poor little Ukraine, fighting a desperate and bloody war against Russia, which wants to take over Ukraine as it took over Crimea to rebuild the old Soviet Union.

The sad news so far is that Democrats badly missed the opportunity to convince Americans how dangerous Trump is to their future.

By focusing on Ukraine — an obvious abuse of power, they ignored the fact that Trump arguably damaged the military by interfering in its code of discipline by embracing a war criminal.

By focusing on Ukraine, Democrats ignored Trump’s deliberate policy of separating hundreds of children from their parents at the southern border and not keeping records so they eventually could be reunited.

By focusing on Ukraine, Democrats let Trump get away with gutting the Environmental Protection Agency to benefit big oil and gas and major industries, damaging the health of tomorrow’s children.

By focusing on Ukraine, Democrats ignored Trump pulling us out of the global climate treaty, damaging our relations with our allies, honoring dictators such as Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin, packing the courts, making lying normal, doing nothing about infrastructure, starting a trade war with China, betraying the Kurds, hurting the farmers, voicing support for white supremacists, abrogating the Iranian nuclear deal, incoherently tweeting arbitrary dictates, etc., etc., etc.

After the House Judiciary Committee holds its impeachment hearings (and Republicans ridicule the whole thing), the Senate will vote along party lines to keep Trump in office.

Before we know it, by this time next year, we will know what Americans think.

Quite possibly, Americans will not read the impeachment report as they didn’t read the Mueller report. Millions will not vote next November. And Trump will be reelected, once again, without the popular vote but with a majority of the obsolete Electoral College vote.

And the oligarchs will be in control.

Or, perhaps, Americans will finally have had enough of the self-promoting con artist who never revealed his taxes, never stopped tending to his business interests, insulted women, raised world tensions and upended standards of civility.

And the promise of America, where facts matter, will prevail.

By the way, if Trump thinks he needs foreign help to win reelection, doesn’t that indicate he’s not confident he can win on his own?

Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.