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President Trump's disturbing defiance of the Constitution

President Donald Trump listens as French President Emmanuel

President Donald Trump listens as French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a meeting at Winfield House during the NATO summit on Tuesday in London. Credit: AP/Evan Vucci

Beyond the particular acts committed by this particular president, and the fierce debate over whether these acts constitute grounds for impeachment, the House Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday details deeply disturbing behavior of a different variety — the decision by President Donald Trump and the White House not to cooperate with Congress. Or, to put it another way, the decision to obstruct a lawful proceeding.

Upon Trump's order, the White House and other federal offices refused to respond to 71 requests or demands for documents, and 12 current or former administration officials refused to testify. We must call this for what it is — defiance of the Constitution and the oversight role of Congress, specifically its sole power of impeachment.

This is being made clear by the federal courts where decision after decision, including one Tuesday, makes clear that Trump must turn over to Congress his tax and financial records.

The report owes its existence to those who did testify, mostly career civil servants who put their jobs in jeopardy. All repercussions on the international stage pale in comparison to the damage being done to the functioning of our democracy. 

One other lesson from the past two days: The release of separate reports from committee Democrats and Republicans show the wisdom of warnings from the founders about the dangers of factionalism. Here we have two works, one nonfiction and one fiction, that contain not merely differences in interpretation, but differences over facts. An inability to agree on what truth is, is as dangerous to our democracy as the attacks on the constitutional process. — The editorial board