Again, as Trump’s enemies would have it, he loses if he acts (by firing Comey, by urging Kiev to look into questionable behavior by or benefiting Democrats), and he loses if he doesn’t act (and simply accepts mischaracterizations of the Russia investigation in the press or Kiev’s intrigues with Democrats). Trump has a predilection to defy his enemies—something they might now have come to count on—so rather than taking the beating they want to mete out to him, he hits back, and then they cry foul. The media intensifies its insinuations that Trump has broken one or more laws (though just which law remains vague and hardly even argued, let alone proven), and the president’s foes reach for their institutional weapons: the special counsel provisions and now impeachment proceedings. When Republicans do not go along with the kangaroo court, well-paid ex-conservatives are hauled out to bemoan the lost integrity of a party whose last president misled the country into ceaseless wars in the Middle East—with these very same ex-conservatives having led the cheers for those interventions.

Trump was within his rights as president to demand answers from Ukraine. And if he stood to benefit politically it was because Ukraine had already involved itself in American politics on the side of Democrats: severing those dubious ties and preventing further manipulation of U.S. elections would necessarily come at the expense of the party that Ukrainians had cultivated when Barack Obama was in power and which they had hoped to keep in power by helping Hillary Clinton. Ukrainians are only acting in self-interest here: they understandably want to enlist U.S. power in every way possible as a check upon Russia. The prospect of American politics taking a turn toward rapprochement with Russia stirs Ukraine to take one side in our elections and Russia to take another. This is an old familiar pattern in American politics—as old as the Washington and Adams administrations, when revolutionary France and counter-revolutionary England had interests in our elections, and America’s ideological factions were inclined to favor one power or another. Neutrality was the course that George Washington urged, and by and large, it was the one that won out, even when the French-sympathizing Thomas Jefferson and James Madison came to power.