PRESIDENT TRUMP’S stone wall on Ukraine has already begun to crack. On Friday, the ambassador he ordered withdrawn from Kiev in May, Marie Yovanovitch, appeared before Congress despite the White House’s unconstitutional attempt to block witnesses and withhold documents from an impeachment inquiry. In a blistering opening statement, Ms. Yovanovitch said she had fought “corrupt interests in Ukraine, who fought back by selling baseless conspiracy theories to anyone who would listen. Sadly, someone was listening.” That would be President Trump, who tried to coerce Ukraine’s new president into investigating the concocted charges about Joe Biden and the 2016 election.
More testimony is expected next week from a former senior National Security Council official and from Gordon Sondland, the Trump-appointed ambassador to the European Union, whose lawyers said he would appear “notwithstanding the State Department’s current direction to not testify.” That offers a good example for other State Department officials enmeshed in the Ukraine affair, including the current charge d’affaires in Kiev, William Taylor.
It’s evident, in other words, that the House investigation can amass abundant evidence of Mr. Trump’s abuse of power without his cooperation. Still, it would be wise for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to give the president an opportunity to climb down from his obstructive position.
She could do so by offering him terms for an impeachment proceeding similar to those adopted during previous investigations of Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton — not because the House must do so, but to assure Republicans and the American public that the process will be transparent and fair. Ms. Pelosi ought to hold a vote by the full House to formally authorize the impeachment inquiry. And the White House should be offered, in return for its cooperation, privileges that were granted to Mr. Clinton, such as allowing his counsel to participate in hearings and rebut charges.
A letter sent to the House by the White House counsel Tuesday falsely claimed that the current impeachment inquiry is illegitimate because those procedures had not been adopted. Again, nothing in the Constitution requires them. But the more open and balanced the impeachment investigation is, the more likely it is that Americans — and perhaps some congressional Republicans — will conclude that Democrats are right to consider Mr. Trump’s behavior an offense potentially justifying his removal from office.
If, in spite of a full House vote and procedural concessions, Mr. Trump persists in his refusal to comply with congressional subpoenas for documents and seeks to prevent testimony by individuals, the merit of an impeachment charge for obstruction of Congress will be made manifest.
Democrats need not comply with every GOP demand. Because the Ukraine investigation is being conducted by the House, rather than by a special prosecutor or other outside party, it is reasonable that some preliminary interviews and depositions be carried out in private. Republicans should not be granted unrestricted subpoena power, since their past actions show they are liable to abuse it for political purposes.
Nevertheless, Ms. Pelosi should strive to construct the most open and accountable process that is possible in a polarized Congress and with a president who disregards his oath of office. The Democrats have a mountain of facts on their side. They should do as much as they can to allow the public to perceive them clearly and without distractions.