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Michael A. Cohen

The courage of a single whistle-blower may change history

Watch: ‘The president must be held accountable,’ Pelosi says
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump. (handout)

Well it’s about damn time.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has for months doggedly resisted the growing calls from her own Democratic caucus for President Trump’s impeachment. The publication of the Mueller Report in April; the testimony in July of the special counsel that made clear the breadth of the president’s law-breaking; the innumerable obstacles placed by the White House in front of legitimate congressional oversight — none of it could move Pelosi off her steadfast position.

But as is often the case in politics — things are the way they are, until they’re not.

A week ago, a presidential impeachment looked like a long shot. But the unfolding revelations of Trump’s efforts to pressure the new president of Ukraine into digging up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden has changed all that. While his latest revelation is perhaps the president’s most egregious abuse of power, it’s hardly the only one. These allegations are shocking in what they show about the president’s brazen disregard for basic political norms, but not a surprise. Still, after an unending drip, drip, drip of political outrage, it is the Ukraine story that has finally steeled the resolve of the House Democratic leadership.

While Pelosi has thankfully finally stepped over the proverbial Rubicon and called for an impeachment inquiry into Trump, we should not forget the person who deserves the lion’s share of credit for this extraordinary series of events.


We don’t know the name of the whistle-blower, who formally complained about Trump’s action. We don’t know of this person’s background, title, or political affiliation. But it is this official, likely a member of the intelligence community tasked to the National Security Council, who finally took a stand against Trump’s corruption, law-breaking, and abuse of presidential power.

In doing so, he will probably be a target of attacks from the president and his enablers — some of which have already begun. In speaking up, though, this official has done something historic, courageous, and history altering.


We would not be having this debate on impeachment if not for his actions. And imagine, for a moment, how much better a place we’d be in as a country if other more powerful figures had shown the same kind of fearlessness.

It’s a reminder — and a useful one at that — that sometimes the actions and the courage of a single person can change history. We’re seeing it happen before our very eyes.

Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.