Dear Madam Speaker,
I usually don’t write letters to politicians. In fact, over the last ten years, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve sat down and actually composed one. Hell, I even have a problem finding the right words to add to the Hallmark card I give my wife on our anniversary. I guess I figure for the money they charge, they should be able to come up with the right words on their own without my help. Okay, that was probably too much information. My point is that this was one occasion where a mere greeting card wasn’t going to suffice.
Let me just come right out and say I am not one of those Democrats who embrace the Green New Deal or Medicare for All. I hail from a suburban district that went for Trump in 2016, and may well do so again in 2020. It was those districts flipping last year that made you Speaker of the House for the second time in your career. You know it, and I know it. And there is no path to the White House for Democrats that doesn’t go through swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
The reason for this letter has nothing to do with policy or tactics. You’ve written the book when it comes to both anyway as evidenced by the futility of your two predecessors. And I’m quite certain you can handle the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, just like Joe Biden appears to be handling Bernie Sanders on the presidential campaign trail. The issue before us – indeed, the issue before the country – is Donald Trump.
I’ll cut right to the chase: your refusal to move forward with a formal impeachment proceeding or inquiry against this president, while laudable, is simply wrong. Yes, wrong. Look, I get the politics. You know who else gets the politics? Trump. He’s betting there’s no way in hell you’ll impeach him. That’s why he’s blocking every subpoena your committee chairs have issued. He’s trying to drag this out past next year’s election in the hopes that he’ll win reelection and that a potential future Republican majority will give him the cover he needs to shred what’s left of the Constitution.
You cannot let him get away with this atrocity. This isn’t about bowing to the Tom Steyers of the country. Nor is it about actually removing him from office. You and I both know there’s no way the Senate will convict. That’s not the point. The point is that for the last three months your committees have been trying to investigate his administration and they’ve been frustrated at every turn. Face it, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, you don’t want the possible political fallout of an impeachment inquiry. On the other, you don’t want to turn off a base that’s screaming for blood; a base, by the way, the party will badly need come next November. So rather than choose one over the other, you’re trying to navigate between the two, hoping you don’t wreck the entire caucus on a reef.
How’s that working out so far? You needn’t reply. We both know the answer. You’ve been around this town way too long not to know that trying to have your cake while eating it too rarely, if ever, happens. To put it another way, you’re getting all the grief without any of the glory. You don’t want to give Trump something he can use to gin up his base in 2020, I understand. But do you seriously think he’s not going to gin up his base? Have you seen his rallies lately? He’s talking about locking up the people who investigated him. Now he’s turning his heat beams on Fox News because they’re hosting town halls for Democratic candidates. He’s in 8th gear on an 8 speed transmission. There is absolutely nothing you can do to throttle him up or down.
You say you’re not at the impeachment stage yet. When might you be? What bit of information do you need to make a determination to move forward? Don McGahn’s testimony? Robert Mueller’s? The former was just ordered by the Justice Department to ignore a lawful subpoena; the latter might end up “declining” to show up altogether. As for the tax returns, good luck getting those. And don’t celebrate just yet over the decision by a district court judge that authorizes Deutsche Bank and Capital One to release Trump’s financial records to the Congress. We both know that John Roberts will have the final say in the end.
And that, more than anything else, is why you must initiate an impeachment inquiry now. You accomplish two things almost immediately: one, you clearly define for the American electorate that this isn’t some random fishing expedition; that there’s a real purpose to it. You also make it clear that this is ONLY an inquiry to determine whether Trump should be impeached, not an actual vote to impeach. That’s an important distinction, and it’s a distinction that a majority of Americans do not completely understand. And speaking of purpose, terms like “specific and legitimate legislative purpose” tend to hold more weight legally, especially in front of the Supreme Court.
Now let’s talk about the politics of this. The longer you wait, the harder this gets, not easier. Think back to Nixon. It took over a year from the time the Senate started its hearings into Watergate before the public began to warm to the idea of impeachment. If you think the politics of this is ugly now, try the fall of 2020. Do you really want every question that the eventual Democratic nominee gets asked at the debates to begin and end with, “Where do you stand on impeachment?” While Biden or Sanders or Kamala Harris try to define their agenda, Trump cries government coup. Can you spell reelection?
Look, I know you think you’re in a no-win situation. You’re really not. The decision before you is really quite simple. I didn’t say it was easy, just simple. Just today, Trump stood in the Rose Garden of the White House and said there would be no talks until the investigations end. That’s right, the President of the United States issued an ultimatum to the House of Representatives. It’s his way or the highway. This is what you’re dealing with: a little boy who thinks all the toys in the toy chest belong to him. The way to deal with boys like that is to take away their toy chest, not coddle them. You want an infrastructure bill? Don’t wait for Trump. Pass one yourself and then dump it in Mitch McConnell’s lap. The same with health care, tax reform, etc… There’s no reason why you can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. While this president takes his ball and goes home, you can make the case to the American people that you have the temperament to run the country.
Since he assumed the presidency, Trump has told more lies than all of his predecessors combined, and that includes Nixon. But there was one instance where he did speak the truth, if halfheartedly. That was when he said this was about setting a precedent for future presidents. Yeah, like he really gives a shit about who succeeds him. If he had his way, he’d be dictator for life. But, seriously, Madam Speaker, he’s right about one thing: this IS about setting a precedent; a very dangerous precedent. If you fail to hold this man accountable, you will encourage the next president – be it Democrat or Republican – to behave in the same lawless manner. In fact, you all but guarantee it.
You’re facing a possible rebellion within your rank and file. You have a sitting president who’s literally shitting all over the Constitution. Your duty requires you to do more than just bring him a fresh role of toilet paper.