President Trump speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington on Wednesday. (Al Drago/Bloomberg)
Opinion writer

President Trump, amidst the shouting of “treason” at House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and the repetition of debunked conspiracy theories, revealed that he understands how much trouble he is in. (And by the way, since accusing the president of wrongdoing obviously would not be treason, why don’t the media ask him why he insists on saying this?)

The revealing moment came in Trump’s unhinged and angry afternoon news conference on Wednesday. The Post recounted:

When Reuters’s Jeff Mason tried again and again to ask the [Joe] Biden-specific question, Trump became angry and demanded that Mason “not be rude” and instead ask a question of the Finnish president. When Mason pressed him, Trump responded that “Biden and his son are stone cold crooked,” then leveled his oft-made attack against the “fake news” media.

There is no acceptable answer to that question, because we now have a rough transcript of the call in which he repeatedly seeks to enlist the Ukrainian president’s help in finding (nonexistent) dirt on Biden. That’s the sole purpose of the call. He wanted a “favor” — help in smearing a political opponent.

There is no defense that Trump didn’t say such things. (We have the rough transcript and multiple witnesses.) There is no defense that this is permissible for the president of the United States. (That’s why Trump was so eager to claim exoneration on allegations of “collusion” regarding Russian interference in 2016). As Biden said on Wednesday, “It’s way beyond anything I frankly thought he would do.”

Trump and his embarrassing spinners can concoct whatever irrelevant and false excuses they want. (The whistleblower’s account was “false,” Trump claims, yet it matched the rough transcript; Schiff “wrote” the whistleblower complaint, Trump asserted, except Schiff apparently didn’t and doesn’t know his or her identity. The list goes on.)

We have Trump’s words doing what no president can be permitted to do — namely, invite foreign interference in our election. If we never found out anything else — if the rough transcript were not hidden in a super-secret file, if Trump did not threaten the whistleblower with exposure in violation of the law, and if he and his attorney general had not asked multiple countries for help trying to disprove the indisputable conclusion that Russia intervened to help him in 2016 — the rough transcript itself would be a sufficient basis for impeachment. And that is why Trump can’t answer the reporter’s question. The call is “perfect,” just not in the way Trump would have us believe.

The potency of the rough transcript is why simplicity is the friend of Democrats. The first article of impeachment is devoid of any complication: President Trump tried to entice a foreign power to provide opposition research that Trump believed would help him get reelected. That is it. It is a violation of his oath and a betrayal of our democracy. (A quid pro quo makes it worse, but is irrelevant.)

Now, Trump and his advisers are obstructing Congress’s investigation by refusing to respond to subpoenas and to let witnesses testify. That’s article two of the impeachment. Trump has also threatened the whistleblower and sought to reveal his or her identity, which is the basis for article three of the impeachment. The rest is utterly irrelevant, not to mention false.

Biden carried out the Obama administration’s and the West’s anti-corruption agenda in urging Ukraine to fire an ineffective prosecutor (who was not in any event investigating Biden’s son at the time). But really, who cares? For purposes of Trump’s impeachment, Biden’s actions don’t matter.

Schiff, Biden, the media, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Trump targets can be used to distract but not to exonerate. It is no wonder Trump is in a full panic. For the first time in his presidency, only his actions matter.

Read more:

Dana Milbank: Trump’s impeachment defense is all alligators and snakes

Paul Waldman: The walls are closing in around Trump’s staff

Alexandra Petri: For the last time, Trump’s every move is brilliant and calculated

Greg Sargent: Trump has placed himself above the law. His latest eruption confirms it.

Max Boot: Impeachment is driving right-wingers crazy. Literally.