Donald Trump and Mike Pence
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

On Wednesday night, Rachel Maddow conducted an explosive interview with Rudy Giuliani’s associate, Lev Parnas. There is likely more to come from part two of the interview, which will be broadcast on Thursday night.

While it is important to keep in mind that the claims Parnas made will need to be corroborated, he made one thing perfectly clear. He was tasked by Trump and Giuliani to extort Ukrainian President Zelensky to announce an investigation that would implicate the president’s main rival in the 2020 election, Joe Biden. Parnas affirmed that was the main objective.

As we saw with his letter to Zelensky, Giuliani made it clear that, in these efforts, he was working on Trump’s behalf. That goes directly to the first article of impeachment on abuse of power and is why the Senate must remove Trump from office.

Based on some of the other things Parnas said, that is simply step one. His more explosive revelations had to do with accusations that Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr, and Representative Devin Nunes were involved in the extortion scheme.

Given that the charges include the attorney general, it is not possible for the Department of Justice to investigate these claims. What we learned from the Mueller investigation is that a special prosecutor basically works for the attorney general, so that is not a remedy either. Congress must take up the charge and probe the depths of the criminal cabal in this administration.

But it doesn’t end there. The 2020 election is only nine months away. If the Democratic nominee wins the White House in November, he or she will inherit a federal bureaucracy that has been steeped in corruption. While people like Pence, Barr, and Pompeo will be gone, their replacements will face the challenge of figuring out how deep the corruption went and cleaning up the mess their predecessors left behind.

Too often we forget that one of the main jobs of the chief executive is to manage the federal government. That primarily happens via members of the president’s cabinet and includes everything from oversight of the military and diplomatic functions to immigration policies and environmental protection, to name just a few.

Donald Trump has both politicized and corrupted these institutions. It is important to keep in mind that we might not have learned about the efforts to extort the government of Ukraine were it not for the whistleblower’s complaint. We should all be questioning what other examples of corruption would be exposed by a little sunlight.

That raises a question that presidential candidates don’t usually talk about during a campaign: who will they appoint to various cabinet positions? But perhaps even more importantly, it ups the ante on the battle for control of the Senate, where nominees to those positions are confirmed. If Mitch McConnell continues as the majority leader, it doesn’t take much imagination to speculate about how he will play havoc with that process to stifle a new administration.

It is very possible that a criminal cabal has infected the federal government. The first step in cleaning house is to remove Trump from office, either via the Senate trial or the November election. But that won’t be enough unless congress does its job of investigating the role of people like Pence, Barr, and Pompeo in the president’s attempt to extort Ukraine and voters give control of the Senate to Democrats, enabling the next administration to clean house.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.