Washington has been shocked by a scandal that has the potential to provoke a national trauma. Another “Watergate,” or, this time, “Ukrainegate.”

For months, we had faith in the idea that constitutional counterweights would keep Donald Trump in check. We also believed that the president would modify his outlandish behavior and start conducting himself like an adult who adheres to the institutional rules of the White House and obeys the rule of law. After all, nobody, not even the president of the United States, is above the law.

We were wrong. We should have known. Trump gave clear signs that his presidency would be like a broken Ferris wheel. Let’s not forget his claim that he could go out onto Fifth Avenue in New York and shoot someone without facing any consequences. The Founding Fathers made it clear they were creating a government based on laws, not people. In addition, in order to prevent tyrannical rule, they designed the constitutional process of impeachment, which is both a political and criminal inquiry conducted by Congress in order to legally remove a president from office. It is legal action that can be taken against the tyrannical abuse of power.

It is a measure to be taken with extreme caution with respect to the presidential process involving the world’s leading superpower, whose democratically elected head of state amasses an enormous amount of power, including control of the military. Washington has been shocked by a scandal that has the potential to provoke a national trauma. Another “Watergate,” or, this time, “Ukrainegate,” which came to light via allegations about an effort to use the president’s power to pressure other countries into interfering in U.S. elections. The most recent and surprising attempt, which involved China, was revealed not by a whistleblower but by Trump himself. He is behaving like the key witness for the prosecution at his own trial.

The 45th president alleges there is a deep state conspiracy among the CIA, the FBI and the State Department aimed at finishing him off politically. He claims to be the victim of a huge hoax and a witch hunt. He proposes that the whistleblower responsible for reporting his conversation with the Ukrainian president, whom Trump solicited for help and pressured for dirt on Biden, be treated as a spy and be subject to antiquated Cold War rules.

His reaction to the plunge the Democrats have taken with their tentative impeachment inquiry is desperate. There is a lot at stake: The inquiry could fail because the Republican-controlled Senate will not find Trump guilty; the wounds caused by Ukrainegate could discourage Trump from running for reelection; or it could be that he is defeated at the ballot box on Nov. 3, 2020. The Democrats’ attempt to use a shortcut to take Trump out, a route that the president himself provoked them into taking, could rebound on them like a boomerang. It could bolster Trump and grant him four more years in the White House.

Many years ago, I asked Ben Bradlee, editor of The Washington Post during Watergate, what history would say about the dishonest president. From his office at the newspaper, he replied, “Richard Nixon, the only U.S. president forced to resign in disgrace. That’s how history will remember him.”

How will Donald Trump be remembered?