Legal expert outlines two major flaws in the White House's 'hollow attempt' to discredit impeachment

Legal expert outlines two major flaws in the White House's 'hollow attempt' to discredit impeachment
President Donald J. Trump participates in a bilateral meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih Tuesday, September 24, 2019, at the Lotte New York Palace in New York City. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

On Tuesday, House Counsel Pat Cipollone sent an eight-page letter to four House Democrats — Speaker Pelosi, House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and House Foreign Affairs Chairman Elliot Engel — discussing his objections to their impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. And legal expert Tess Bridgeman, in an October 9 piece for Just Security, asserts that there are two main distortions in the letter.

The first distortion, according to Bridgeman: “The White House letter distorts the nature of the impeachment inquiry and the purpose of impeachment.”

That “main purpose” of that part of Cipollone’s letter, Bridgeman notes, is to claim that impeachment is an effort by partisan Democrats to overturn the 2016 election results — a GOP talking point she finds ridiculous.

“There is certainly no disputing that if the president were impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate, he would be removed from office — and that impeachment is indeed an extraordinary remedy,” Bridgeman explains. “But imputing a purely partisan motive on the inquiry because the president is of a different party than the current majority in the House is a hollow attempt to confuse the real issues at stake.”

The second distortion, according to Bridgeman: “The letter seeks to turn the subject matter of the inquiry on its head; Trump’s call was plainly not ‘completely appropriate.’”

“The White House letter goes to great lengths to seek to whitewash Trump’s July 25 call with (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky,” Bridgeman observes. “While Trump has repeatedly claimed the call was ‘perfect,’ his tendency to rob words of their meaning by turning them on their head is not new — although it continues to be of great concern to the health of our democracy.”

Bridgeman concludes her piece by stressing that Trump’s July 25 conversation with Zelensky was far from innocent no matter how much Cipollone claims it was.

“In short, the July 25 call is one of the key pieces of evidence already in the public domain showing that Trump has abused the powers of his office to serve his private interests,” Bridgeman asserts. “Others include the president’s own public statements doubling down on the very same impeachable conduct.”

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