WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Tuesday angrily denounced the looming House vote to impeach him as a “partisan impeachment crusade” being waged by Democrats, describing the effort to remove him from office as an “attempted coup” that would come back to haunt them at the ballot box next year.
As the House moved toward votes Wednesday to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the president — who has stonewalled the inquiry at every turn — used an irate and rambling six-page letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi to try to make his own case, portraying himself as the victim of hostile enemies determined to destroy his presidency with false accusations.
“This is nothing more than an illegal, partisan attempted coup that will, based on recent sentiment, badly fail at the voting booth,” Trump declared, describing a process enshrined in the Constitution as an attempted government overthrow. “History will judge you harshly as you proceed with this impeachment charade.”
In a missive full of unproven charges, hyperbole and long-simmering grievances against his own government — at one point, Trump referred to leaders of the FBI as “totally incompetent and corrupt” — he angrily disputed both of the impeachment charges.
The letter ignored the copious evidence uncovered during a two-month inquiry by the House Intelligence Committee, based in part on the testimony of members of his own administration, that found that Trump sought to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals while holding back nearly $400 million in military assistance the country badly needed and a White House meeting.
The charges against Trump assert that he engaged in a corrupt scheme to enlist a foreign power for his own political benefit in the 2020 election, followed by an effort to conceal his actions by blocking congressional investigations. On Wednesday, the House is all but certain to approve them on nearly party-line votes, making him the third president ever to be impeached.
Past presidents have offered contrition as they stared down looming House impeachment votes. President Bill Clinton issued a personal apology from the White House Rose Garden in 1998, biting his lip and saying he was “profoundly sorry” for his actions in the Monica Lewinsky affair days before the House voted to impeach him. President Richard Nixon resigned his office in 1974 rather than face the vote at all.
But Trump is defiant and unrepentant. He accused Pelosi and her party of fabricating lies against him, saying that the speaker and Democrats were possessed by “impeachment fever” and vowing that he and the Republican Party would emerge stronger after he is vindicated in a Senate trial.
“You are the ones interfering in America’s elections,” he wrote on stationery embossed with the White House seal. “You are the ones subverting America’s democracy. You are the ones Obstructing Justice. You are the ones bringing pain and suffering to our Republic for your own selfish, political and partisan gain.”
The letter appeared to preview the grievance-filled narrative of his 2020 campaign, echoing the angry rants Trump delivers at arena-style rallies around the country as he campaigns for re-election.
Trump wrote that he knew his letter would not change the outcome. But he said the document was “for the purpose of history and to put my thoughts on a permanent and indelible record.”
He released the letter as Democrats began taking the final steps toward Wednesday’s final vote by drafting rules for House floor debate. Meeting in a hearing room upstairs from the House chamber, the House Rules Committee kicked off the broader House debate over the fate of Trump’s presidency.
“This scheme to corrupt an American presidential election subordinated the democratic sovereignty of the people to the private political ambitions of one man, the president himself,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the House Judiciary Committee. “It immediately placed the national security interests of the United States of America at risk.”