The House Judiciary Committee last week drafted two articles of impeachment against the president, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress before sending them through to the House of Representatives for a vote that is fully expected to pass, setting up a Senate trial in the new year.
The historic step marked the culmination of three months of investigation into President Trump’s apparent attempt to extort a political favour from newly-elected Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky in a phone call on 25 July, in which he threatened to withhold $391m (£302m) in congressionally-approved military aid unless the latter announced an anti-corruption investigation into his domestic political rival Joe Biden.
In a stern editorial simply headlined “Impeach”, The NYT described the case against Mr Trump as “short, simple and damning”.
“President Donald Trump abused the power of his office by strong-arming Ukraine, a vulnerable ally, holding up hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid until it agreed to help him influence the 2020 election by digging up dirt on a political rival,” the newspaper argued.
“When caught in the act, he rejected the very idea that a president could be required by Congress to explain and justify his actions, showing ‘unprecedented, categorical and indiscriminate defiance’ in the face of multiple subpoenas. He made it impossible for Congress to carry out fully its constitutionally mandated oversight role, and, in doing so, he violated the separation of powers, a safeguard of the American republic,” the editorial continues.
The paper goes on to attack Mr Trump’s refusal to co-operate with the investigation spearheaded by House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff: “By stonewalling as no previous president has, Donald Trump has left Congress with no choice but to press ahead to a Senate trial.
“The president insists he is innocent of any wrongdoing, yet he refuses to release any administration documents or allow any administration officials to testify – though, if his assertions are in fact true, those officials would presumably exonerate him. He refused to present any defence before the House whatsoever, asserting a form of monarchical immunity that Congress cannot let stand.
The New York Times was not without criticism for House Democrats, however, arguing the public phase of the inquiry – in which the likes of acting Ukraine chargé d’affaires Bill Taylor, his predecessor Marie Yovanovitch and US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland gave dramatic testimony on live TV – had been rushed.
“It’s regrettable that the House moved as fast as it did, without working further through the courts and through other means to hear from numerous crucial witnesses. But Democratic leaders have a point when they say they can’t afford to wait, given the looming electoral deadline and Mr Trump’s pattern of soliciting foreign assistance for his campaigns,” the board wrote.
Ultimately, the paper called on both parties to put aside partisan bickering and consider the best interests of the Constitution and the American people (“Would they put up with a Democratic president using the power of the White House this way?”) before singling out senior Republicans Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham as potential villains of the piece should the process reach the GOP-dominated upper chamber in 2020.
The Los Angeles Times has already come out in favour of impeaching the president, declaring “We’ve seen enough” on 7 December, but the announcement by Mr Trump’s hometown paper is more likely to provoke him.
The president has regularly denounced the “Failing New York Times” on Twitter and recently stopped the White House subscription to a paper he regards as a hub of hostile “Fake News”, a line of attack not entirely unrelated to The NYT’s dogged investigation of the many scandals surrounding his campaign and subsequent administration.