Earlier today, former GOP Representative David Jolly tweeted out an interesting idea:
Pelosi could take dramatic control of the national narrative immediately with a prime time address to the nation announcing impeachment proceedings.
The President and his team have otherwise now spoken publicly a dozen times in the last 72 hours framing this moment as routine.
— David Jolly (@DavidJollyFL) September 23, 2019
Jolly gets it. In the era of news under Donald Trump, drama and intrigue draws media focus and attention. I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s good for our country. But I’m also not so naïve as to think it will change any time soon, before Trump is gone. Democrats can whine about it, or can beat Republicans at this game.
As the story of Trump and the Ukraine slowly morphs into one about Biden and the Ukraine, thanks to right-wing news outlets continuing to amplify Trump’s allies, Speaker Pelosi would be wise to take Jolly’s advice, and use the new media rules in her favor, by taking strong, dramatic action that would drive a new narrative, and place the focus back where it belongs… on Trump’s corruption.
So, what would such a speech look like? I imagine it would be something like this:
My fellow Americans:
I am coming to you from the Speaker’s office, in the House of Representatives. Some of the biggest political giants in American history have occupied this office, from which I am addressing you. Both Democrats, like Tip O’Neill and Sam Rayburn, and Republicans, like Schuyler Colfax and Nicholas Longworth, and even Henry Clay, of the then-Democratic-Republican party.
It is also the office from which Carl Albert, nicknamed the “Little Giant from Little Dixie,” was tasked with the decision of how to handle potential impeachment of Richard Nixon, for his crimes against America, and betrayal of his oath. In all, Speaker Albert referred about two dozen articles of impeachment to the House Judiciary Committee for review. In the end, the impeachment against President Nixon was comprised of just three.
The third of those articles reads, in part:
“In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, contrary to his oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives on April 11, 1974, May 15, 1974, May 30, 1974, and June 24, 1974, and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas.”
What were those materials that the third article of impeachment is referring to?
They were tapes of Richard Nixon that the House had reason to believe could prove that Richard Nixon knew of and directed the cover-up of the Watergate break-in. That June, 1972 break-in at the DNC headquarters at the Watergate building was aimed at gathering damaging materials that President Nixon could use against Democrats in the fall, 1972 election.
The Nixon White House did everything it could to keep those recordings, or transcripts of them, from being handed over to Congress, in a clear attempt to obstruct the Congress’ ability to execute its Constitutional authority.
Moving to impeachment, and introducing that particular article against Nixon was a last resort. Every effort was made to get those materials, and every effort had failed, until the Supreme Court finally stepped in and forced the Nixon White House to turn them over.
Carl Albert didn’t take his duties lightly, and neither have I.
If you read the political news (and I cannot blame you if you haven’t), I have been the target of a lot of anger by many liberals in my own party, for not rushing to impeach President Trump.
Both publicly, and in private, I can tell you that elected members of my own party have not held back their anger at my position. I have not wavered or bent to their pressure because, like the great men I referred to previously, I take my duty to this country, and the oath I took, with a solemn sense of responsibility. The more they pushed me to impeach, the more I pushed back. Many of them will tell you that I wasn’t, frankly, very nice to them about it, either.
Recently, however, the House of Representatives has become aware of a call between the President of the Ukraine, and President Trump. In this call, by President Trump’s own admission, he urged the President of the Ukraine to open an investigation into the business dealings of former Vice President Biden’s son – an investigation which would then feed American media with innuendo that Donald Trump could use to destroy Vice President Biden’s campaign for President.
We know about this call because a whistleblower in the intelligence committee filed a complaint with the Intelligence Community’s Inspector General, who acts as a kind of independent watchdog.
To be clear, when someone in the intelligence community becomes a whistleblower, they are risking the end of their career. It is not a step they take lightly. The inspector general, upon reading the complaint, marked it as “of urgent concern.”
That is not a loose term. When an inspector general marks a complaint with “of urgent concern,” it requires that the complaint be sent to the Director of National Intelligence, who then must, by law, send it to the relevant Congressional committees. I want to stress this point again – the Director of National Intelligence must, by law, send any whistleblower complaint marked “of urgent concern” to Congress.
It is not a choice. It is a requirement.
That did not happen. The Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, my colleague Adam Schiff, did not learn of this whistleblower complaint from the Donald Trump’s acting Director of National Intelligence. It was withheld from him.
We believe the transcript of that call, that the whistleblower was so concerned with, could shed more light on what the President asked the Ukrainians to do, and what may have been offered in response. We have some reason to believe that explicitly, or implicitly, Donald Trump held military aid to the Ukraine hostage, unless they did his bidding. We will not be able to know that, for sure, unless we see the transcripts, and the whistleblower’s complaint, which may point us towards other evidence besides this one call.
Chairman Schiff has requested those transcripts and has been refused by the Trump White House. He has also already filed a subpoena to receive the whistleblower’s complaint, which was required to be sent to him, by law. Thus far, the White House has refused to turn over any materials.
So, that is where we stand now:
- A president sought to have a foreign power conduct a smear campaign against one of his top political opponents
- He may have held substantial aid hostage, until the foreign government complied
- A whistleblower found out and alerted the intelligence community’s top watchdog, who then decided to mark it in a way that required Congress be notified
- The Trump administration decided to ignore that law and hide the whistleblower complaint from Congress
- And the Trump administration is now fighting to keep that whistleblower complaint from Congress, as well as transcripts of the call in question, where he urged a foreign government to engage in a smear campaign to help rig our election
Tonight, I am announcing that the House Intelligence Committee will issue a subpoena for the transcript of the call, and give one last chance for the Trump administration to turn over that transcript, and the whistleblower complaint that has been already subpoenaed.
As the White House already has these materials, and they are brief enough to review quickly before turning over, I am giving President Trump 48 hours to comply and turn them over to Congress.
If he does not, I will, with great regret, ask the House to refer an article of impeachment to the Judiciary Committee, modeled off the third article of impeachment against Richard Nixon. If passed, I will urge the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nader, to take it up immediately for consideration.
While his committee does so, however, we will continue to exhaust all other options to try to get these materials. But, it is my hope that article will convince the president that we are not playing games, and that we are quite serious about being able to perform our duties that our constitution gives us.
One final word about what impeachment is, and what it is not.
Impeachment is a vote to begin consideration of whether to refer a case to the Senate, to remove the president from office. Voting to refer an article of impeachment is a vote to begin a very long process of considering that question — it isn’t a vote to remove a president.
It is the Senate, after a trial, not the House of Representatives, that would ultimately have to vote to remove a president, and we are far from that point.
Yet, even as far away from that point as we are, it is important for President Trump to understand that if he does not comply with our lawful requests in the next 48 hours, we will be in constitutional crisis because of his refusal, in the same way we were thrust into a constitutional crisis by Richard Nixon. Donald Trump, not I, will be forcing the process of impeachment to begin.
Let me be clear: The decision on whether to thrust this country into the throes of impeachment is in his hands, now.
I ask the president to pray on this, tonight, as I have prayed on it in the past few days. His oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution is the same oath I took. Our Constitution, and our Republic, is based on the rule of law. When that rule of law is allowed to crumble, so does our very Republic.
When the Constitution was crafted at our Constitutional Convention in 1787, a woman is said to have gone up to Benjamin Franklin and asked, “Sir, what system of government have you chosen – a monarchy or a Republic?” And Franklin is said to have replied to her, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Tonight, I as Speaker of the House of the Representatives of the United States of America, want to make clear that I will never allow one man to hold monarchical powers, and flout the rule of law. Not any Democrat. Not any Republican.
As long as I am Speaker, we will fight to keep America a Republic.
Thank you, and God bless you, and the United States of America.