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Many Americans never wanted it to come to this. Moving to impeach a U.S. president is not an act for which we should be proud.

Impeachment proceedings, as history has shown, present America at its worst.

Of course, there are those of us who deplore Donald Trump’s politics. We cringe at the sound of his voice, knowing that the words coming out of his mouth likely are untrue. Though we suspect that he has broken some laws of the Constitution, we knew that impeachment proceedings would only lead to more chaos.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s call on Tuesday to begin an impeachment inquiry based on “the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections” put us on a treacherous road from which we cannot turn back.

If the benefits of impeachment did not outweigh the risks before, Trump’s recent interactions with Ukraine tipped the scale all the way over. Trump left us no choice. He needs to go or, at the very least, be held accountable as much as possible.

With the investigation revving up, all we can do now is hope for the best. And with this callous president, that means hoping that America emerges from it intact.

Trump plays dirty, and this is a battle he cannot afford to lose.

He will see to it that this impeachment inquiry becomes the nastiest political fight of our lifetime. In his eyes, former presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton were weak. If he goes down, he is willing to take the entire country with him.

An impeachment article against Trump likely would easily make its way through the Democrat-controlled House, but getting the Republican-controlled Senate to even bring it to trial is much more challenging.

In the end, Trump could claim victory, and all of the things many Americans hate most about him could be used to propel him to a second term. The thought of four more years of Trump in the White House keeps us awake at night. America, we fear, could not survive it.

So we must prepare ourselves for more political infighting that will pull our divided nation further apart. We must brace for an onslaught of reprehensible tweets, self-absorbed lies and vile attacks by Trump’s most vicious supporters.

Even when the articles of impeachment are officially drawn up, there is no getting around the fact that the basis of the inquiry will remain ambiguous and open to interpretation. That provides Trump with an opening to declare no wrongdoing.

Hours after releasing a memo summarizing his July 25 telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which helped fuel newest calls for impeachment, Trump labeled the inquiry “the single greatest witch hunt in American history.” We have heard that before.

Nearly his entire first term was overshadowed by an investigation into whether his campaign conspired with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016. Months after Robert Mueller’s report outlined the investigation into several acts of alleged obstruction, Trump is accused of enlisting Ukraine to help his reelection.

It seems clear from the rough transcript that Trump asked the Ukrainian president to do him a “favor” by launching a corruption investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, his 2020 rival, as well as Biden’s son Hunter.

Obviously, Trump didn’t think releasing such a damaging summary of his conversation would prove his innocence. But that was not the intent. The White House summary of his conversation, which fails to show him engaging in an explicit quid pro quo with a foreign government, provided a distraction that could be used to rally his supporters against Democrats.

Trump and his surrogates are experts at diverting attention away from his wrongdoing. In a mass email sent out Wednesday to supporters, Trump’s campaign called the Democratic impeachment effort “a total smear job.”

“I’ve done nothing wrong. Trust me. You saw the transcript,” he wrote in all capital letters.

His surrogates took to the airwaves to declare that no advantages were offered or granted in return for the Ukrainian president’s efforts. Therefore, they argued, no laws had been broken.

The memo of his conversation gave those who want to believe in Trump something to latch onto. And this time, he did something he rarely does. Trump made this fight not just about him — but about anyone who supports him.

“It’s time to set something straight once and for all,” the email said. “The Democrats’ constant personal attacks, vicious lies, and now these baseless impeachment attacks have never had anything to do with me.

“Their goal has always been to silence YOU. They want to steal YOUR voice and YOUR vote.

“This is only the beginning of yet ANOTHER nasty Witch Hunt against me, and we need to fight back BIGGER and STRONGER than ever before.”

With that, he launched an “Official Impeachment Defense Task Force,” asking “patriots” to contribute at least $5 to join and promising to double match each donation.

It was not clear what the money would be used for exactly. But that’s not the point. Trump is rallying his troops for the nastiest fight they’ve ever seen.

The rest of us will be left to deal with the collateral damage caused by a president who will go to any lengths to protect his own interests.

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Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

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