Once-proud and now shell-shocked Republicans are desperately seeking a way to resurrect the soul of their once-Grand Old Party.

A fine starting place for those who want to recharge their souls, is to reflect upon a feel-good moment that occurred on May 28, at a meeting of two patriotic, academically accomplished West Pointers, Mike and Bill.

Mike, who finished first in his Army academy class, was in his spacious Washington office, beseeching Bill, who graduated in the top 1% and went on to a distinguished career of military and national service, to re-up.

Take one more tour – serve your country once more, President Donald Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo implored President George W. Bush's former ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor. Mike convinced Bill to return for another hitch as America's top diplomat in Kiev, where a new president's government was being threatened by Russian troops fomenting revolt.

Five months later, this past Tuesday, Bill found himself fighting perhaps his most arduous battle – one he never expected to wage. He was halfway around the world from Ukraine, way beneath Washington's Capitol dome – three floors below ground level, in a super secure room called a "skiff" (that's gov-speak for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility).

In an extraordinary daylong congressional hearing, Ambassador Taylor found himself fighting to defend the United States Constitution. A meticulous note-taker, Taylor detailed for House impeachment probers evidence that could provide the basis for a vote to impeach America's 45th president.

America's top diplomat in Ukraine revealed a string of details making clear that President Trump this year had repeatedly sought to demand that Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, should launch a governmental probe to uncover possible dirt on Trump's then-front-running Democratic presidential opponent in 2020, Joe Biden, and also to probe a much-discredited American rightwing political conspiracy theory that there was a Ukraine connection to Russia's cyber-sabotage of the U.S. 2016 presidential campaign.

Taylor gave stunningly detailed testimony of meetings, texts and other communications throughout the summer and autumn. It's his tale of how he discovered that Trump had actually held up congressionally approved military assistance to militarily threatened Ukraine and delayed approving a meeting with Ukraine's president until he agreed to investigate Democrats. Taylor also discovered that Trump pressured Zelenskiy to publicly announce he was starting those probes before releasing the vital military funds.

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Trump's White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, who rarely speaks in public, said, "This is a coordinated smear campaign from far-left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution."

If Washington's most sincere and patriotic Republicans have any hope of saving their shattering party from its worst instincts, they can start by taking a stand by rebuking Trump's White House for daring to refer to Taylor, a Vietnam veteran hand-picked by their Republican secretary of state, as a "radical unelected bureaucrat waging war on the Constitution."

Republicans, as well as Democrats, know it is against the law – and of course can be an impeachable offense – for presidents (or any officials) to attempt to use federal aid funds as a way of obtaining anything of political value. If Democratic Presidents Carter, Clinton or Obama had done precisely what Trump did, Republicans would have denounced it as "a shakedown" – and impeachment hearings would be already underway.

That's why capital Republicans were privately furious when Trump's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, last week told reporters (before he unsuccessfully tried to unsay what he said): "And that's why we held up the money.... We do that all the time. ... Get over it."

Get over it? Taylor isn't likely to get over an incident that happened the day after Trump's now-infamous July 25 phone call with the new Ukraine president. Taylor kept a long-standing appointment to meet with Ukraine's military commander at the front-line in northern Donbas. Taylor had learned Trump had put a hold on the military aid funds Ukraine's troops desperately needed.

"Arriving for the briefing in the military headquarters, the commander thanked us for security assistance," Taylor said in his House hearing opening statement, which was made public, "but I was aware that this assistance was on hold, which made me uncomfortable. ... I could see the armed and hostile Russian-led forces on the other side of the damaged bridge across the line of contact. ... More Ukrainians would undoubtedly die without the U.S. assistance."

Trump's impeachment now appears probable, if not inevitable. Republicans need to get over their fear of the leader who failed them – and get about resurrecting the shattered values that once made their Old Party grand.

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Martin Schram writes for Tribune News Service.



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