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There is no legal or logical basis to President Trump’s claim that the impeachment inquiry is illegitimate.
“Wow. This letter is bananas,” Gregg Nunziata, a lawyer and former Republican staff member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote yesterday, referring to the White House letter announcing it would not cooperate with the inquiry. “A barely-lawyered temper tantrum. A middle finger to Congress and its oversight responsibilities. No Member of Congress should accept it, no matter his or her view on the behavior of Pelosi, Schiff, or Trump.”
The Constitution gives Congress the right to pursue impeachment. And a president inviting foreign interference in American affairs — for personal gain — clearly qualifies as a potential “high crime.”
By pretending otherwise, Trump is making a bet.
He’s betting that he can bend the Republican Party to his will and get congressional Republicans and administration officials to parrot his fictions. He’s betting that the media won’t be able to resist framing this story as “Both sides have a legitimate argument.” He’s betting that Democrats won’t be willing to engage in as tough a brand of politics as he is.
What’s the right response from each of those groups?
For other Republicans, it’s remembering that they don’t need to submit to Trump. Even though he says the earth is flat, they can say it’s round.
For the media, it’s using plain-spoken, objective language to state that Trump’s position has no Constitutional basis. The president’s position isn’t supported by federal law.
For the Democrats, it’s being both tough and smart. File subpoenas and try to persuade judges to force Trump administration officials to testify and hand over documents. If that doesn’t work — or drags on for weeks — find other ways to make the case to the country. Don’t allow the impeachment inquiry to be derailed or slowed too badly by Trump’s obstruction.
And there is one other group that should be responding to the president’s lawlessness: the public. Call your member of Congress. Attend a town-hall meeting in your district.
In both business and politics, Trump has often depended on lies. When reality is inconvenient or threatening, he makes up his own version. It’s worked out quite well for him thus far. This could be the time that he has finally gone too far.
“Really feels like the White House is flailing these past few days, in no small part because they’ve managed to open a two front war in DC by ratcheting up the impeachment resistance and making major unpopular foreign policy choices,” Matt Glassman of Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute wrote.
Mimi Rocah, former federal prosector: “Can you imagine lawyers in any other forum — criminal or civil — writing a letter saying ‘nope, my client doesn’t like this, he’s not participating?’ Of course not. This a political propaganda not real legal arguments.”
The letter is a test of Congress’s will, argued Harvard’s Leah Wright Rigueur: “How do you actually deal with a president and an executive branch that doesn’t have any regard for rule, for law, for precedent, for history, and just does as it sees fit, and a Congress that hasn’t held that president accountable until right now.”
“House Democrats shouldn’t have to confront Trump alone; other prominent Democrats and anti-Trump forces have a role to play too,” Brian Beutler of Crooked wrote. “Imagine the symbolic power of millions of people marching in Washington, DC, and cities and towns across the country — now, and repeatedly as the process plays out — making concrete demands: for Republicans to support impeachment, for a real impeachment trial, for Trump’s conviction, or for a swifter end to the crisis that only Republican senators could bring about by telling Trump his time is up.”