Former White House press secretary Joe Lockhart made a mea culpa in a New York Times editorial Thursday as Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire' was testifying before the House Intelligence Committee.
Previously, Lockhart opposed impeachment. He noted that he sat through the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton and saw as Republicans humiliated themselves. Instead, he'd just assume the voters decide on President Donald Trump's lawlessness. But then the whistleblower complaint became known.
"It’s simple: the revelations of Mr. Trump’s efforts to compel Ukraine to falsely discredit a political opponent" changed his opinion.
"I believed then and I believe now that the most appropriate place to litigate the malfeasance and incompetence of this administration is at the ballot box in 2020," Lockhart wrote in the editorial. "But that simply cannot happen if the president is allowed to use the awesome power of American military and economic aid to solicit foreign interference in the election. We can’t allow the president to pervert the next election with foreign interference, especially after what happened in 2016."
He explained that the past week has changed everything. "Trump will pull any lever available to him to unfairly and illegally influence the outcome of the next election," he wrote. "Mr. Trump has shown that few things can deter him from illegal behavior. The Mueller report only emboldened him: His call to Mr. Zelensky came the day after Mr. Mueller testified before Congress about his findings."
He noted that under the Clinton impeachment, it was clear the Republicans were acting in a purely political way and the American people saw through it. In Trump's case, there's an important law broken that involves national security.
"Ms. Pelosi initiated impeachment only after it became clear that no other option could protect the American people and the Constitution from the abuses of a lawless president," he explained. Indeed, Democrats have done everything in their power to seek the information, demanded transparency, subpoenaed documents, and gone to court when the president ignored it.
"Democrats must remind voters constantly that they gave Mr. Trump every opportunity to cooperate with congressional oversight investigations but were stonewalled by highly questionable claims of executive privilege by the Trump administration," Lockhart said.
When it comes to the politics, he said that it's important Democrats force Republicans to answer to the voters and articulate the issues in ways Americans can understand.
"The election was always going to be a referendum on his character and his unconventional view of the Constitution and presidential power," he said. "If the Democrats proceed in a serious and thoughtful way they can force the entire Republican Party into a choice that ensures defeat — break with Mr. Trump and lose his voters, or stick with him and get defeated by a country that has had enough."
No amount of risk, however, "can outweigh the now clear and present danger President Trump presents to our democracy and a legitimate election in 2020," he closed.