Some find it unsettling or even coarse, while others consider it refreshing in the stuffy and often disingenuous world of politics. President Donald Trump’s tendency to speak without a filter and frequently dispense with high-minded statements and diplomatic niceties is positively enigmatic. Add to that often amusing, usually exciting – for those who want their elected leaders to say what they mean – and occasionally baffling. His Dec. 17 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was vintage Trump and left no one in any doubt as to how he feels about his looming impeachment. It was, to use the vernacular, a doozy.
The letter, which reads almost like a six-page classic Trump tweet, encompassed practically every thought the president and his supporters have had about the way Democrats have viewed his presidency from the start. It opened with “Dear Madam Speaker,” but that’s where the politeness ended.
Pulling No Punches
Railing against the Democrats’ impeachment proceedings, the president pulled no punches. He described the two articles of impeachment against him as “not recognizable under any standard of Constitutional theory, interpretation, or jurisprudence.”
“You dare to invoke the Founding Fathers in pursuit of this election-nullification scheme – yet your spiteful actions display unfettered contempt for America’s founding and your egregious conduct threatens to destroy that which our Founders pledged their very lives to build.”
The president goes on to point out that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated clearly that he did not feel he was being put under any pressure and that Ukraine’s foreign minister said, “I have never seen a direct link between investigations and security assistance.”
The key phrase uttered by the U.S. president during his now-famous phone conversation with Zelensky is: “I would like you to do us a favor, though… “ Upon this phrase, Democrats hung their entire case, claiming that Trump was attempting to extract from his Ukrainian counterpart a commitment to publicly announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s dealings with Ukraine.
The president’s enemies contend that he was requesting a personal favor, one that would have benefited his 2020 re-election campaign. In his letter, Trump points out the presumptive nature of that allegation: “I said do us a favor, not me, and our country, not a campaign.” At the heart of the Democrats’ flawed “abuse of power” claim – to be sure – lies that one discrepancy. Those who would see the president impeached have chosen to interpret his words in the worst possible light, but they have absolutely no way of proving the accuracy of this interpretation of the president’s intentions.
As for the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, Trump described it as “preposterous and dangerous,” rightly pointing out that, “Under that standard, every American president would have been impeached many times over.”
The Judgment of History
The very fact that Trump addressed such a letter to the House majority leader is, perhaps, a mark of how passionately he feels about what is currently taking place and what has gone before. After all – as he also lays out – congressional Democrats have made no secret of the fact that they intended to impeach him, for something, from the moment he entered the White House as commander in chief.
In ending, Trump explained that the purpose of his letter is to add to the historical record. After exhorting Democrats to “immediately cease this impeachment fantasy” and return to the business of legislating, the president stated his intention to “put my thoughts on a permanent and indelible record.”
As the House prepares to vote to impeach the president, this letter will likely not move most Democrats, but it may serve as a rallying cry for his supporters and political allies. Trump will almost certainly remain in office, and, as he campaigns for a second term, he will no doubt use this letter time and again against his rival and the Democratic Party as a whole.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.