This is the first part of a two part letter to Congressman Tom Reed explaining why he should impeach Donald Trump. It covers topics not included in the House's Articles of Impeachment but which should be considered when evaluating Donald Trump's fitness to continue holding office. I believe that these topics will be of particular interest to Congressman Reed given what he has stated in the past. The second part of this letter debunks many of the Republican objections to impeaching Trump for his attempt to coerce Ukraine to interfere in our 2020 election.
I am writing this letter to you to urge you to impeach Donald Trump. I know my demand for impeachment will not come as a surprise to you since I have contacted you or your office before and asked you to support impeachment. I also know that you are unlikely to put much weight in my opinion because I am a liberal and oppose both Trump and his agenda. That is fine. Do not impeach Trump because of me. Impeach Donald Trump because of YOU. Impeach Donald Trump because much of what he has done is offensive to YOUR agenda. IF YOU FAIL TO IMPEACH DONALD TRUMP YOU WILL BE TURNING YOUR BACK ON WHAT YOU STAND FOR.
I believe you will firmly agree with me that you stand for the following:
- Standing up to Russian aggression. You more than most realize that Russia is not our friend.
- Supporting our military.
- Safeguarding our national security secrets.
- Uniting the country as much as possible and reaching across the aisle to work in a bipartisan fashion to get things done.
- Upholding the Constitution.
I will examine how Donald Trump violates each of these principles in a moment, but first I'd like to say a few words about the threshold for impeachment.
What Is Impeachable?
The Constitution says Congress may impeach the President for "high crimes and misdemeanors" but it does not define what that phrase meant. One thing is clear, however-- one does not have to break the law in order to have committed an impeachable offence. Frank O. Bowman III, a law professor at the University of Missouri, writes.
There are two strong arguments against the idea that the phrase requires criminal behavior: a historical one and a practical one. The history of the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” and of how it entered our Constitution establishes beyond serious dispute that it extends far beyond mere criminal conduct. The practical reasoning is in some ways more important: A standard that permitted the removal of presidents only for indictable crimes would leave the nation defenseless against the most dangerous kinds of presidential behavior. . . .
one point on which the founding generation would have been clear was that “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” was not restricted to indictable crimes. Their understanding has been ratified by two centuries of American practice.
Bowman is obviously correct-- an act does not have to be criminal in order to be impeachable. Even the non-act of extreme negligence can be impeachable. Suppose, upon being sworn in, a new President said, "Screw this. I don't want to work. I'm going to take the next four years off lying on a beach in France. Thanks for the $400,000 a year salary, suckers!" No law, no matter how outrageous, would be vetoed if the President refused to do his job, nor would there be anyone to act as Commander-in-Chief.
Now, suppose Mexico decided to take advantage of our weakness by knocking down Trump's big beautiful wall. And suppose they sent in their army to retake Texas, New Mexico, and Southern California. And suppose our military was waiting for a command from their Commander-in-Chief to counterattack and President LazyBones phoned in from his nice French Villa to say, "I never was a big fan of Trump's Wall. But thanks for the $400,000 a year salary. Better learn some Spanish, SUCKERS."
This situation that would demand impeachment, despite the fact that no laws had been broken.
It is true that the Founders decided that mere maladministration should not be sufficient grounds for impeachment. We should not impeach a president simply because we do not like his policies or the way he implements them. And you may consider most of what I am writing about in this letter to fall under the category of maladministration and thus not an adequate justification. That is fine. Consider this letter as providing additional reasons to impeach in case you are on the fence. I will discuss the main reason to impeach--Trump's conspiracy against America's democracy--in another letter.
Standing Up To Russian Aggression
Do you remember these Facebook posts chastizing Presdient Obama and your 2016 election opponent, John Plumb, for being soft on Russia? Do you remember how you warned us to beware of Russia--how Putin was not our friend? You have removed these posts from your Facebook page along with nearly every other post leading up to the 2016 election, but I documented them before you had them removed.
It is odd, Congressman Reed, that you continued to support Donald Trump, given your appreciation for the threat that Russia poses to the world, even after Putin clearly said at Helsinki that he wanted Trump to win because Trump would normalize relations with Russia. It is especially strange given Trump's capitulation to Russian aggression as I will discuss below.
Four pillars In Response To Russian aggression.
Donald Trump has strengthened Russia by undermining four pillars set up to counter Russian aggression. Much of this section is based on Rachel Maddow's September 5 broadcast.
President Obama slapped sanctions on eleven Russians in 2014 in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Unlike Obama, the Trump Administration has been VERY reluctant to impose sanctions and has been very slow to implement them. And though it did expel 60 Russian diplomats in response to the March 4, 2018 poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England, this sizeable expulsion was a result of miscommunication within the Trump Administration and not the desire on Trump's part to get tough with the Russians.
Congress passed a law nearly unanimously in July 2017 requiring us to punish Russia for its intereference in our election and its invasion of Ukraine. The Trump Administration missed the first deadline of producing a list of Russian officials to sanction and it announced in January 2018 that it was not imposing sanctions. It finally did impose a weak round of sanctions in March 2018, but some of the officials on the list to be sanctioned were already under sanction so the new sanctions had little impact.
The Trump Administration was slow to impose sanctions for the Skripal poisoning as well. The Chemical and Biological Weapons and Warfare Elimination Act (CBW) required the Trump administration to determine whether Russia was responsible for the attack by May 14, 60 days after Edward Royce, the Republican Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee submitted a request for findings to Trump. If the Administration determined that Russia was behind the attack then it would trigger the first of two rounds of sanctions. Royce called out the Trump Administration for missing the deadline on July 26, and the Trump Administration did not actually implement the first round of sanctions until August. The CBW then required the Trump Administration to make a determination by November as to whether Russia would stop using chemical and biological weapons and whether it would allow U.N. inspectors to verify that it was no longer using these weapons. If the Administration could not verify that Russia had stopped using these weapons it was required to implement a second round of sanctions, though the law did not state when that second round had to be implemented by. The Trump Administration did not actually impose the sanctions until August 2019-- roughly 17 months after the poisoning.
2) Eviction from G-8
Russia was kicked out of the G-8 in 2014 in response to Putin's annexation of Crimea. Trump urged the G-7 to readmit Russia into the G-8 in June 2018, and in August 2019, he blamed Russia's invasion on Obama instead of on Putin and declared his intention to invite Russia as a special guest to the G-7 summit in 2020.
3) Military aide to Ukraine
This is the main focus of impeachment and I have written a separate letter discussing it.
4) European Reassurance Initiative:
President Obama announced a $1 billion European Reassurance Initiative fund to shore up the defenses of our European allies in the aftermath of Russia's 2014 invasion of Crimea. It would, among other things, allow us to increase our joint military training with our NATO allies and explore initiatives to decrease our response time to Russian aggression by prepositioning equipment on NATO territory.
Trump, on the other hand, has decided to defund over 20 ERI/EDI (European Defense Initiative) projects in order to funnel money towards his border wall. The following graphic shows programs that would be defunded. It is from Maddow's September 5 broadcast and was prepared from Attachment B of Defense Secretary Mark Esper's September 3, 2019 Memorandum.
5) Bonus Point: Trump Acts As Putin's Defense Counsel
Donald Trump took up advocacy on behalf of Russia in the aftermath of Russia's poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal on British soil. The Washington Post reports:
In a summer 2018 call with Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump . . . disputed her intelligence community’s conclusion that Putin’s government had orchestrated the attempted murder and poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil.
“Trump was totally bought into the idea there was credible doubt about the poisoning,” said one person briefed on the call. “A solid 10 minutes of the conversation is spent with May saying it’s highly likely and him saying he’s not sure.”
The Unforgivable Sin:Laying Out The Welcome Mat For Future Russian Attacks On Our Elections
President Trump invited Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, and Russia's Ambassador to Washington, Sergei Kislyak, into the Oval Office in May 2017. In addition to yucking it up with them about how relieved he felt from inquiries about Russia after firing nut job James Comey, Trump shared top secret Israeli intelligence with them about an Israeli undercover operation in ISIS territory. Israeli intelligence officials were livid. They realized that Russia was likely to share any information they learned from Trump with Iran. But this was hardly the most outrageous thing that Trump did at the meeting. The Washington Post reported that three former White House officials said that Trump told Lavrov and Kislyak that he was unconcerned about their attacks on our election in 2016 because the United States did the same in other countries. How would the Russians interpret this other than as a green light to interfere with our elections in 2020 on behalf of Trump? This act alone, even if Trump had done nothing else, is worthy of impeachment. Incidentally, this badmouthing of the United States may sound familiar. Bill O'Reilly once challenged Trump's respect for Putin by telling him that "Putin's a killer." To which Trump replied, "There are a lot of killers. . . What, you think our country is so innocent"
What the Russians Are Saying
Russian commentators are laughing their asses off at us on their state TV. They know that Donald Trump is strengthening Russia by weakening America's place in the world. They are crowing like they have Trump by the balls and they know it. Julia Davis, an expert on Russian disinformation, watches Russian media closely. Here are a few of her tweets describing what she has seen on Russia's state TV. I strongly encourage you to visit her site, Russian Media Monitor if you want to see more.
#Russia's state TV is ecstatic about Trump's reported intent to block $250 million in military assistance to Ukraine, which was designed to help the country defend itself from Russian aggression.
"Terrible news for your independence!" jeers Russian state TV host Olga Skabeeva. pic.twitter.com/MZHSu8Jmik
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) August 29, 2019
Russia's state TV is eating up Trump's mess like candy, arguing that the White House is not only indifferent towards Ukraine's plight, but believes that Ukraine is "occupying Russia's territory," emphasizing that the only thing Trump wants from Ukraine is the Biden investigation. pic.twitter.com/pcd4jfl8wK
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) September 21, 2019
Russia's state TV:
Ukrainian diplomat Vadim Triukhan cites German newspapers: "Trump won the first elections thanks to Russia and now he wants to be re-elected thanks to Ukraine."
Russian state TV host Evgeny Popov: "Well, how else could you put it? That's exactly what happened." pic.twitter.com/TVF0RMAso7
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) September 24, 2019
#Russia's state TV discusses Trump defunding more than $770 million in military projects designed to shore up European defense against Russia.
Host Evgeny Popov says that could mean only one of two things:
"Either Trump is ours, or we [Russia] are not a threat." pic.twitter.com/jNSqvBUisw
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) September 6, 2019
“Putin won the lottery! Russia’s unexpected triumph in the Middle East,” raved Mikhail Rostovsky in his article for the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. “Those who were convinced of Trump’s uselessness for Russia ought to think again...What Washington got out of this strange move is completely unclear. To the contrary, what Moscow gained from this is self-evident...Trump’s mistake in Syria is the unexpected ‘lottery win’ that further strengthened Moscow’s position in the Middle East and undermined America’s prestige as a rational political player and a reliable partner.”
Maksim Yusin, the editor of international politics at the leading Russian business daily Kommersant, was amazed by the ongoing stream of inexplicable actions by the American president that benefit the Kremlin. “All of this benefits the Russian Federation,” Yusin marveled. “You know, I’ve been watching Trump’s behavior lately and get seditious thoughts: maybe he really is a Russian agent? He is laboring so hard to strengthen the international image of Russia in general—and Putin in particular...In this situation, Americans—to their chagrin and our enjoyment—are the only losers in this situation.”
“This is such a pleasure,” grinned Olga Skabeeva, the host of Russia’s state television program 60 Minutes. “Russian soldiers have taken an American base under our complete control, without a fight!” Skabeeva’s co-host Evgeny Popov added: “Suddenly, we have defeated everyone.” Incredulously, Skabeeva pointed out: “This is an American base—and they just ran away! Trump ran away!”
Film producer, Karen Shakhnazarov, a frequent guest on Russian TV, put it bluntly.
They say Trump is making Russia great. That’s basically accurate. The chaos brought by Trump into the American system of government is weakening the United States. America is getting weaker and now Russia is taking its place in the Middle East. Suddenly, Russia is starting to seriously penetrate Africa … So when they say that Trump is weakening the United States — yes, he is. And that’s why we love him … The more problems they have, the better it is for us.
I can't say I blame them for being thrilled. Watching their reporter wander through our abandoned airbase in Syria must have been exhilarating.
Our Partial Withdrawal From Syria and Our Military's Morale
I know you supported Trump's partial withdrawal from Syria, but even you must have been alarmed by the lack of planning and the suddenness of our withdrawal. Even you must have been dismayed to learn that we bugged out so quickly that we had to bomb our own base to prevent our munitions and supplies from falling into the wrong hands. And I bet even you must have been queasy about the fact that Trump gave Iran and Hezbollah a chance to isolate us from potential allies in the fight against terrorism. Iran's Tasnim News Agency quoted Hezbollah's Secretary-General, Seyed Nasrallah:
No one can rely on (the United States of) America and an agreement struck with it because of the latter’s disloyalty and treachery. . . . America broke faith with Kurds at once, and abandoned them. Such a fate awaits anyone who trusts Washington.
And though I know you wanted our troops out of the conflict area, I can't imagine that you are happy that Trump endorsed Turkey's ethnic cleansing of our Kurdish allies.
Trump praised and defended Turkey in his remarks to reporters Thursday, saying the country was taking actions to secure part of its border with Syria where Kurds have been gaining influence and it had to have that area "cleaned out."
“For many, many years Turkey, in all fairness, they've had a legitimate problem with it," Trump said. "They’ve had terrorists, they had a lot of people in there that they couldn’t have. They suffered a lot of loss of lives and they had to have it cleaned out. This outcome is something they’ve been trying to get for 10 years."
And most importantly, I know you care very deeply about our military and the morale of our troops. Unfortunately there is some evidence that the abandonment of our Kurdish allies is having a negative effect. Read the account of one U.S. Special Forces soldier who said, "I am ashamed for the first time in my career." Perhaps you will dismiss his concerns because he is just one person and anonymous. Fine, then read this extraordinary letter by 40 retired Admirals and Generals who lament that Trump's sudden abandonment of our Kurdish allies demonstrates that there is a large gap between the values of the White House and the values of loyalty, commitment, integrity, honor, and trust that are embraced by the military.
Do you still have confidence in Trump's competence as Commander-in-Chief? Then read this article in The Atlantic by Mark Bowden. He "interviewed officers up and down the ranks, as well as several present and former civilian Pentagon employees. Among the officers [he] spoke with were four of the highest ranks—three or four stars—all recently retired. All but one served Trump directly; the other left the service shortly before Trump was inaugurated." Bowden writes:
Military officers are sworn to serve whomever voters send to the White House. Cognizant of the special authority they hold, high-level officers epitomize respect for the chain of command, and are extremely reticent about criticizing their civilian overseers. That those I spoke with made an exception in Trump’s case is telling, and much of what they told me is deeply disturbing. In 20 years of writing about the military, I have never heard officers in high positions express such alarm about a president. Trump’s pronouncements and orders have already risked catastrophic and unnecessary wars in the Middle East and Asia, and have created severe problems for field commanders engaged in combat operations. Frequently caught unawares by Trump’s statements, senior military officers have scrambled, in their aftermath, to steer the country away from tragedy. How many times can they successfully do that before faltering?
The article is long and goes into great depth, but it is essential reading for anyone deciding whether Donald Trump is fit to remain Commander-in-Chief. No doubt you believe that President Trump supports the military by pushing for increased military spending, and that is certainly a reasonable thing to believe. But supporting the military involves more than just pushing for a bigger defense budget and spending the money in that budget as Congress intended it to be spent (A report prepared by the Air Force examined how pulling funds from 51 military project to build the Wall will hurt our national security). It also involves ensuring morale is high and, most importantly, not stumbling into an unnecessary war through irrational decision making.
And finally, Donald Trump's pardoning of three servicemen who have been convicted or who were about to be put on trial for war crimes has undermined military discipline and upset the chain of command. As one former senior Pentagon official told military reporter, Fred Kaplan, "You can wreck a military this way."
Safeguarding Our National Security Secrets
- Donald Trump tweeted a picture from one of our surveillance satellites that will help Iran and others evade our ability to gain intelligence on them. Congressman Reed, I know that you are aware of this because I mentioned it to you in a town hall meeting and I gave you articles discussing that fact. However, I wrote a separate article for you to read so you can refresh your memory.
Donald Trump frequently used cell phones to call others despite repeated attempts from his staff to get him to use secure landlines. Even worse, Rudy Giuliani and Gordon Sondland used unsecure cell phones to communicate with the President from Ukraine. It is a near certainty that the Russians now know more about what happened in Ukraine than Congressional investigators because they were able to monitor these sensitive calls. This would have tipped them off that we were withholding aide (assuming Trump had not already told them) and would have strengthened their hand in dealing with the Ukrainians. Being privy to Presidential conversations could also help them in shaping a disinformation campaign to influence the President and American citizens.
- Donald Trump endorsed Matt Gaetz and his Cavalcade of Clowns storming the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) at the outset of Congressional impeachment hearings. I wrote a separate column explaining how this needless stunt jeopardized our national security. To be fair to Trump, he may not have known Republican Representatives would violate security protocols by bringing in their cell phones. But a President who was interested in maintaining our security would not have encouraged an unnecessary intrusion into a SCIF. Oh, wait. At the outset of this letter I assumed that you, Congressman Reed, valued safeguarding our national security secrets. I suppose you still do, but your endorsement of this stunt was still unwise.
Uniting Our Broken Country
Congressman Reed, you take great pride in your role as a member of the Problem Solver's Caucus, and rightfully so. Our nation is more bitterly divided now than at any time since the Civil War. While I have often criticized you I agree that we need more people who are willing to reach across the aisle in goodwill to get things done. Unfortunately, Donald Trump is the Divider-in-Chief. He has called Never Trumper Republicans "human scum".
The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats. Watch out for them, they are human scum!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2019
Fortunately, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham was quick to step in and clarify any confusion this tweet may have caused. According to Grisham, it is not just Never Trump Republicans who are human scum. That label, she said, should apply to anyone who opposes Trump's agenda. And Grisham isn't the only one who hates Trump's opponents. William Barr has accused the left of "waging a scorched earth, no-holds barred war of resistance" and engaging "in the systematic shredding of norms and undermining the rule of law."
AG Bill Barr: "It is the left that is engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and undermining the rule of law." pic.twitter.com/tX7pmHBhNK
— The Hill (@thehill) November 16, 2019
I could write several columns discussing how this is just projection on Barr's part and how it is the lawless Republicans who are engaging in a systematic shredding of norms and undermining the rule of law. Instead, I will just make three points showing that Republicans were waging a scorched earth campaign against the Democrats even before Trump was elected president.
- Trump and his supporters questioned President Obama's legitimacy as President with their made-up Birther movement.
- Mitch McConnell blocked President Obama from having the opportunity to have Merrick Garland be considered for the Supreme Court on the made up rule that Presidents shouldn't get to appoint Justices in the last year of their presidency. McConnell justified this new rule by saying that the voters should have a say in the direction of the Court. McConnell later proved that this pretext was bogus when he announced that the Republican-controlled Senate would approve a Justice appointed in the final year of President Trump's first term if they were given the opportunity.
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) February 16, 2016
McConnell takes great pride in his judicial hypocrisy. He even gave an evil laugh in the video in the next tweet as her reminisced about his judicial duplicity.
Hannity: "I was shocked that former President Obama left so many [judicial] vacancies and didn't try to fill those positions."
Mitch McConnell: "I'll tell you why. I was in charge of what we did the last two years of the Obama administration. [Creepy evil laugh]" pic.twitter.com/revbToN8aZ
— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) December 13, 2019
- Several prominent Republicans pledged to investigate Hillary to death and possibly impeach her even before the 2016 election. New York Congressman Peter King said, "You really could have a constitutional crisis here." Texas Representative Michael McCaul and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson both said Clinton could be impeached. And Abigail Tracy wrote this about Donald Trump in Vanity Fair just before the 2016 election.
And Donald Trump, who has turned “lock her up” into a rallying cry at his campaign stops, said Wednesday that Clinton would be impeached just as surely as Bill Clinton was. “You know it’s going to happen. And in all fairness, we went through it with her husband. He was impeached,” the Republican nominee said at a rally in Florida Wednesday, adding that Hillary is “most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency.”
The Republicans love to complain about how unfair the impeachment process is. Yet they were happy to proclaim that Hillary Clinton was guilty and should be thrown in jail even without a trial.
Do you really support such divisiveness, Congressman Reed? Do you support Donald Trump labelling his opponents "scum" and calling reporters who are critical of him "enemies of the people"? I don't believe you do. Before every town hall meeting you ask the audience to rise, put their hand over their hearts, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. There is one phrase and one key word in the Pledge that I believe are as important to you as they are to me. The phrase is "with liberty and justice for all". There can be no liberty and no justice when the President entertains the idea of locking up his political opponents even before a trial. And the key word in the Pledge is "indivisible". Donald Trump has taken divisions that already existed in this country and made them many times worse. If you oppose this divisiveness as much as I think you do then you can prove it by voting to impeach Donald Trump.
Upholding the Constitution
President Trump took an oath to defend and protect the Constitution. Instead, he has trashed it, going so far as to call the Emoluments Clause "phony" when his decision to host the G-7 summit at his Doral resort came under fire.
He backed down from his plan to hold the summit at Doral under pressure, but not before he made his contempt for the Constitution known. Please watch this video of Fox News's Judge Andrew Napolitano discussing the importance of the President faithfully executing his obligation to preserve, protect, and defend the ENTIRE Constitution and not just those parts of the Constitution that he likes.
You took an oath to protect the Constitution as well, Congressman Reed. Will you carry out your oath, or defend Donald Trump? You can do only one. The two options are mutually exclusive.
Updated 12/13/19: I added a tweet of Mitch McConnell cackling in delight at his judicial duplicity.