The letter is one of the most inaccurate, unhinged pieces of correspondence ever to bear the White House letterhead, and represents the latest nadir of the Trump administration’s campaign to spread disinformation about the president’s actions and the nature of the impeachment inquiry. Georgetown law professor Heidi Li Feldman described its contents on Twitter as a set of “totally absurd legal arguments attempting to justify what is clearly contempt of Congress.”
One of Trump’s most loyal partners in defying congressional Democrats is Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who on Wednesday told Fox News that he plans to ask Senate Republicans to sign a letter saying they do not “believe the transcript of the phone call between the president and the Ukraine is an impeachable offense,” adding that House Democrats are “about to destroy the nation for no good reason.”
Lindsey Graham, before a Senate trial even happens, says Trump did nothing wrong and says he's going to send a letter to @SpeakerPelosi begging her to stop the impeachment inquiry which he claims will "destroy the country." pic.twitter.com/dfvU37DWLp
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) October 9, 2019
But Graham didn’t really address the letter the White House sent to congressional leaders the previous night. Ironically, he already addressed the issue when he delivered one of the most concise, effective arguments for why the White House has no choice but to comply with congressional requests for testimony and documents. The only problem is that he delivered it in 1998, well before he crawled into Trump’s pocket.
Here’s what he said:
“Article III of impeachment against Richard Nixon was based on the idea [he] failed to comply with subpoenas of Congress. Congress was going through its oversight function to provide oversight of the president. When asked for information, Richard Nixon chose not to comply and the Congress back at that time said, ‘You’re taking impeachment away from us. You’re becoming the judge and jury. It is not your job to tell us what we need. It is your job to comply with the things we need to provide oversight over you. The day Richard Nixon failed to answer that subpoena is the day that he was subject to impeachment because he took the power of Congress away from Congress and became the judge and jury.”
Lindsey Graham: A president who doesn't comply with Congressional requests for information is subject to impeachment. pic.twitter.com/Dhw5VBxbf0
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) October 8, 2019
Pretty convincing stuff.
Graham isn’t the only Republican to have had a change of heart regarding congressional oversight now that it’s zeroing in on the president. On Tuesday, former congressman Trey Gowdy, who chaired the select committee to investigate the terrorist attack in Benghazi, agreed to work with the Trump administration as it fights the impeachment inquiry. The White House letter laying out the administration’s intention to stonewall Congress was sent hours after Gowdy met with Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to seal the deal.
But in 2012 Gowdy seemed pretty certain that if Congress subpoenas an entity for testimony or documents, that entity better comply, “vicissitudes of political cycles” be damned.
"The notion that you can withhold information and documents from Congress no matter whether you are the party in power or not in power is wrong. Respect for the rule of law must mean something, irrespective of the vicissitudes of political cycles."
— Beki Knott (@lotsofuss) October 9, 2019
Gowdy apparently wasn’t able to relay his beliefs about the sanctity of congressional oversight to the White House before the letter could be sent Tuesday night.