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Deconstructing President Trump’s letter to speaker Pelosi

By Laurence Maher - posted Monday, 6 January 2020

Does it matter if President Donald J Trump is removed from office if, in truth, there is no (or no sufficient) factual foundation to satisfy the requirements of Articles I and II of the US Constitution? "In truth"? Does the truth matter? President Trump has made a big issue of the "truth" being distorted or concealed in the media and public debate. His implacable foes brand him as a pathological liar. All sides appear to be in furious agreement that the truth does matter.

If it is assumed that President Trump is every bit the loathsome amoral monster depicted by his foes (including those in Australia such as the ABC), can the hypothetical reasonable person nevertheless openly express the opinion that the President is entitled, in keeping with the electoral college decision in 2016, to resist all efforts to eject him from office? Or, does the President's alleged unique malevolence compel us to say nothing that might afford him comfort and support? For example, should every truth-seeking Australian be obliged to adopt the recent assessment of the ABC Q&A guest Alastair Campbell – he must be taken as speaking the truth, rather than merely expressing his opinion – when he likened President's Trump's misbehaviour in office to what Hitler was doing in 1930s Germany?

One means by which interested Australians can form a response to such questions is to consider the six-page letter sent by the President to House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on 17 December 2019 protesting the House's then proposed impeachment resolution (which it adopted two days later), and the public reactions to the President's letter.


It is an odds-on certainty that some (perhaps many) Australian readers of the President's letter would conclude that American antagonists of their President are right to describe it as, for example, "a 6-page tantrum", "a diatribe", "a 6-page letter of insults", "a 6-page shriek", "angry", "blistering", "bluster", "bizarre", "deranged", "ferocious", "fiery", "fascistic", "really sick", and "unhinged".

Those condemnations are no more than opinions, and opinions on the impeachment resolution approved by the House will, necessarily, differ. This is demonstrated by the majority and minority reports of the Trump Impeachment Inquiry conducted by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in Consultation with the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (December 2019), and of the corresponding conflicting reports of the separate inquiry by the HouseCommittee on the Judiciary (December 2019).

As always, the soundness and force of an opinion depends on its factual foundation. Accordingly, other Australians would supply the short answer: why all the fuss about the President's letter? Some would opt for the marginally longer but more direct response: Is not the President entitled to give as good as he gets when subjected to a hypocritical and preposterous partisan stunt intended to nullify the 2016 Presidential election result? What if, in the fullness of time, it turns out that the "facts" bolster the President's stance?

Here is a non-exhaustive list of suggested bases upon which the President's ardent supporters and anyone else might (and do) – they say, reasonably – contend that the latter assessments are soundly/factually-based:

· Affront to democracy. Lacking the fortitude and good grace to accept the electoral college result, the 45th President's most resolute enemies in the US Congress and elsewhere set about on election day 2016 (or earlier), regardless of the truth, to remove him from office because, in their scheme of things, he was not meant to win;

· The tsunami of "hate speech". Some Australians would say that the inventors of the compendious contemporary slur of convenience, "hate speech" (the speech which such folks love to hate), are at the forefront of its most florid exponents. There is a lot to choose from including this image of an entertainment celebrity holding up the severed head of the President;


· "Russiagate" – missing in action.Other Australian readers of the President's letter would insist on a clear explanation for why the central allegation - that the President colluded in Russian government-directed interference in the 2016 US election - is not front and centre in the House of Representatives impeachment resolution. Furthermore, nobody should be surprised if now and then an Australian lawyer might be heard to say that abandoning a serious charge (perhaps tantamount to treason) after banging on about it to the exclusion of almost every other charge of perfidy without proffering a thoroughgoing convincing explanation, would look highly opportunistic to a jury;

· A modern Aesopian fable?Perhaps the Congressional pro-impeachment majority is having a bet each way on the "Russiagate" charge given that it seems to be hinted at in both Article I and Article II of the impeachment resolution;

· Real spooky: The Steele Dossier. Some Australian readers would, understandably, have concluded what had been clear almost from the outset of the Trump haters' crusade to drive him from office, and which would be confirmed on a reading the short executive summary of the gargantuan Mueller Report (March 2019), namely, that the haters had been made to look childishly gullible in their stampede to rely on the manifestly ridiculous "Steele Dossier", even without regard to its anti-Trump money trail which led directly to where? To the Democrat Party National Committee (DNC), that's where;

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About the Author

L W Maher is a Melbourne barrister with a special interest in defamation and other free speech-related disputes. He has written extensively on Australian Cold War legal history.

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