An avowed counterpuncher, President Trump is not known for cool grace under pressure. He took to Twitter over the weekend to unleash a frenzied series of screeds attacking the impeachment process, saying not only that it’s unwarranted, but that it’s illegitimate.
He’s entitled to defend himself, of course. But the language was so extreme and irresponsible at times, it was unnerving. This is clearly a time not to take Trump either literally or seriously.
Two particular targets were an as-yet-unnamed whistleblower, whose complaint about Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky opened this latest neighborhood in Crazytown, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who is leading one part of the probe into the whistleblower’s allegations. Here are a few of the things Trump tweeted about them late Sunday night and Monday morning:
The Fake Whistleblower complaint is not holding up. It is mostly about the call to the Ukrainian President which, in the name of transparency, I immediately released to Congress & the public. The Whistleblower knew almost nothing, its 2ND HAND description of the call is a fraud!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2019
Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2019
WHO CHANGED THE LONG STANDING WHISTLEBLOWER RULES JUST BEFORE SUBMITTAL OF THE FAKE WHISTLEBLOWER REPORT? DRAIN THE SWAMP!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2019
The last tweet was tied to the notion, advanced by Fox and other Trump allies over the weekend, that the form for submitting whistleblower complaints was mysteriously changed to eliminate the requirement that the person have firsthand knowledge of the improper behavior. But as hacker-turned-national-security expert Kevin Poulsen reported (you can read the long version at the Daily Beast), there was no such change — whistleblowers were able to act on hearsay long before Trump’s call with Zelensky. And besides, Poulsen noted, Trump’s whistleblower didn’t use the form to complain about the July 25 call.
BEWARE. This story is false.— Kevin Poulsen (@kpoulsen) September 27, 2019
Compare the May 2018 version of the form (left) with the version currently on the DNI's website. Fake story.
Also, the requirements are set by 50 USC 3033 (k)(5) and can only be changed by legislation.
Also, Trump's whistleblower wrote a letter https://t.co/y5NDkbHFyg pic.twitter.com/iEVrRPoZBZ
The most disturbing of Trump’s tweets, though, involved him quoting someone else’s over-the-top view of the current situation. Over a three-tweet string, Trump cited the words of the Rev. Robert Jeffress, an evangelical Christian pastor (and Fox News contributor), who said on Fox that removing Trump from office through impeachment “will cause a Civil War like fracture in this nation from which our country will never heal.”
Impeaching a president is hugely disruptive, but civil war? Really? The only way Trump gets removed from office is if at least 20 of the 53 Republicans in the Senate decide he’s got to go, assuming every Democrat and independent agrees. In other words, it would be a strongly bipartisan move to oust a president, based on proof that he abused the power of his office.
This is yet another illustration of Trump’s “l'état, c’est moi” approach to the presidency. He is not the country, and what’s best for the latter is not the same as what’s best for the former. And vice versa. His rhetoric over the weekend shows no recognition of that.
One of the Republican talking points of late has been that House Democrats should spend their time doing the people’s business rather than wasting it on an impeachment inquiry that more than half the public does not support.
That’s based on the false premise that the GOP-controlled Senate and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell actually want to legislate. As they’ve shown over the first nine months of this year, they do not — or at least McConnell (R-Ky.) doesn’t. Because the House has passed bills on a number of key topics, including immigration, healthcare, election security and government transparency, that the Senate isn’t taking up.
But the Republican argument ignores a bigger concern, which is how Trump is reacting to the whole thing. Because his responses have veered from defensive to irresponsible, and that should alarm everybody.