- - Thursday, October 31, 2019

“Boo” only startles when its target is caught by surprise. Democrats chose Halloween to spring a preliminary impeachment vote on the nation, but their move was spotted a mile away. Adversaries of President Trump have been loudly proclaiming their intention to expel him from office since the day he was elected. Now that the campaign to unelect him is out in the open, partisan accusers operating in the shadows must step into the light. Judgment cuts both ways.

Behind the mask of patriotic concern is the same, angry face of Democratic devilry. Two-plus years of high drama over the Trump-Russia collusion ploy came up short. Moving on, party bigwigs now reckon that switching to a fresh Ukraine-gate inquisition may rejuvenate their long-sought dream: a 2020 presidential election campaign emblazoned with the headline “Trump is impeached.”

Toward that end, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held on Thursday a full-chamber impeachment inquiry vote that she had held back until the crescendo of criticism over a secretive investigation reached overwhelming volume. With the Democratic majority approving her measure by a 232-196 vote, Mrs. Pelosi and Co. have simply added a thin veneer of legitimacy to a proceeding that has thus far denied the president due process in meeting the charge that he threatened to withhold military aid unless Ukraine agreed to investigate former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The new House resolution leaves authority over the House hearings firmly in the grip of Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. The ranking Republican must plead to the chairman for permission to subpoena witnesses or documents. If he refuses, the ranking member may call for a vote in the full Democrat-controlled committees a certain exercise in futility.

Only after the Intelligence Committee has issued a report on its findings will Mr. Trump and his legal advisers have a chance to offer a defense during Judiciary Committee hearings. Just as a sprinter isn’t likely to beat a competitor with a head start, the president will be hard-pressed to unwind a Trump “high crimes and misdemeanors” narrative that has already been written.

On its face, the evidence contained in the transcript of the president’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky revealed no quid pro quo, particularly since U.S. notions of withholding military aid did not surface until a month after the leaders had spoken.

Rather, it was Mr. Trump’s request for help in delving into the origins of the Trump-Russia collusion charge, as well his interest in Mr. Biden’s admission that he killed a Ukrainian investigation into an energy firm employing his son, that has fueled Democrats’ ire. Given the party’s applause for measures that undermine law enforcement at home — sanctuary policies come to mind — it’s no surprise that the D Team on Capitol Hill would charge the president with hammer and tong for challenging their political shenanigans abroad.

On cue, an anonymous whistleblower stepped forward to tell Americans they should believe that which did not appear in the phone call transcript rather than what they have read with their own lying eyes. A patriot cannot be distinguished from a traitor when they’re dressed in the costume of a whistleblower, but Mr. Trump believes he smells a rat: “Where’s the Whistleblower?” he tweeted on Tuesday. “Just read the Transcript, everything else is made up garbage by Shifty Schiff and the Never Trumpers!”

“Everyone has read your words on the call,” Mrs. Pelosi tweeted back. Once upon a time, words had meaning. It was Bill Clinton who taught Americans that the meaning of “is” is squishy and now, so is the meaning of justice. Call it an alternative use for freedom of speech.

Somewhere across the fruited plain may dwell the last credulous American, laboring under the delusion that the Democrats’ Trump-Ukraine conspiracy bears no resemblance to their failed Trump-Russia conspiracy ploy. And there is room around his campfire with the only soul unconvinced that a coming House vote to impeach the president is a done deal.

In the nation’s capital, where only 4 percent cast a vote in favor the Donald’s election, Trump Derangement Syndrome isn’t simply a metaphor. The crowd at a recent Nationals World Series game who cheered their team while razzing the president provided ample evidence.

That “politics ain’t bean bag,” is obvious, but an impeachment process that tramples fundamental fairness is on course to earn history’s judgment in the form of Bronx cheers, and boos.

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