Dear Representative DeFazio,
I want to thank you for your email response to my question about — and urgent request for you to begin— impeachment of the criminal president. I realize, of course, that your response was not to me individually, but to what I’m sure were a very large number of your constituents who, like me, are troubled by your party’s continued delaying tactics.
Your response lays out your reasoning in some detail, which is helpful. I also am glad to be updated on the specific investigations and legislation you are spearheading or signatory to. I applaud the good work you are doing now, as well as the good work you have done throughout your long tenure as one of Oregon’s representatives in the Congress.
I had hoped to be persuaded by your considerations. But I am very sorry to admit that I find them flawed in almost every point. If I knew you would take the time to read my ideas, I’d take the time to explain, point by point, where your reasoning fails. I’d like to go through the Mueller report and point out line by line the crimes that must be pursued by impeachment. I’d like to explain how you misread the example of Clinton in several ways. I am open to offering some of those details if you express an interest in them.
But for an email that likely won’t be read, I want to just make two main points that— I really am sorry to say— undermine all your equivocations and point toward the one inevitable end to the constitutional crisis that faces us — impeachment or surrender. (Surrender here means giving up the Constitutional idea of separate but equal powers. Trump is pushing toward an imperial presidency, and only impeachment can prevent it.)
- All the investigations you and other members are pursuing have no real purpose without impeachment at the end. Every time you or one of your colleagues mention “holding the president accountable,” I can only wonder what you mean. What “accountability” is there besides impeachment? And— as has become more and more clear each day— all your investigations will be frustrated by obstruction, delay, and counter-suits without impeachment to back them up. Subpoenas are already being ignored. Witnesses simply refuse to show up for hearings. Documents and records are held back. What more are you waiting for? Without the powers that an impeachment investigation would give you, your work and that of your party is going to waste. The investigations you mention could and should be part of an impeachment investigation. Otherwise…? Maybe you can tell us what you hope to achieve, if it is not impeachment.
- Most of your efforts in creating new legislation will also be frustrated by the Senate, just as you say impeachment will be. Or simply vetoed by the criminal-in-chief. Your work would be better focused on impeachment. Most importantly, your work to secure the 2020 election will be undermined, impeded, obstructed and basically rendered useless by the sitting administration and the Republican held Senate. How can you — or we— trust in this upcoming election if the current administration is in power? Especially when the Mueller report reveals in detail how this President’s campaign worked with foreign powers to sabotage the previous election.
Words, and even hard work, are not enough in a crisis. You must do the right thing, as well. And I think you know in your heart what that is.
I’m sorry to have to say this. Despite your strong words, you actually cannot “Stand up to the Trump administration to defend our democracy, protect vital programs, support U.S. diplomacy, and fight for equality for all” without impeaching this criminal regime. I believe that you want to defend all those things. I know how hard you have worked in Congress, how hard you are working still. I can imagine how difficult it must be to take such a risk at this stage of your life and career.
But the facts show that without impeachment, your efforts to defend us will come to naught. The only “standing up” left to do is to stand for impeachment. I’m so, so sorry to say so, but I think you know it’s true.
Impeachment might fail. I know that, too.
But it might not. All other directions are doomed to failure. Impeachment is the only road left open.
This is the choice point. Please change your mind, and move in the right direction.
I notice two things that your lengthy letter does not address.
Your letter doesn’t mention duty. Your duty to your constituents and to the constitution. You took an oath, sir, and you have made your career under that oath. The time to rise to that promise has come. The time to live up to that oath is now.
Your letter doesn’t mention climate change. That urgent danger can’t wait another 20 months for an election which your party will not even win if they don’t pursue impeachment. The future needs you as much as we need you in the present.
There is no more time for delay.
In reply to this, from the office of Representative Peter DeFazio:
Dear Mr. Zimmerman:
Thank you for contacting me to share your support for impeaching President Trump. I appreciate hearing from you and share your concerns.
As you know on April 18, Attorney General William Barr released a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The first half of Mueller’s report is clear that “the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion,” that Russia “perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency,” and that the Trump campaign was aware of Russian interference and “expected it would benefit” from Russia’s actions. However, Mueller determined that the Trump campaign’s actions did not reach the legal bar of criminal conspiracy.
The second half of Mueller’s report lays out several cases in which President Trump took a variety of actions against the government’s investigation into Russian interference, actions which could possibly have obstructed justice. While Mueller declined to make a determination on whether President Trump obstructed justice, Mueller makes clear that the evidence laid out in his report is a roadmap for Congress to continue investigating.
That’s why I am pleased that the House Democratic Chairmen of the committees of jurisdiction – including the Judiciary, Oversight, Intelligence, Financial Services, Ways & Means, and Foreign Affairs Committees – are using their oversight responsibility to further investigate President Trump’s alleged abuses of power, including the numerous threads that the Mueller report has identified for Congress to continue untangling. Moreover, these committees are investigating other important items that were not investigated in the Mueller report, including President Trump’s taxes and potential financial conflicts of interest.
Let me be clear, I share your concerns about the disturbing actions of this president and the troubling evidence revealed in the Muller report. However, even with this evidence, the Republican-led Senate is still stonewalling further investigation and is resistant to voting for impeachment of President Trump at this time. In fact, the release of the Mueller report has only hardened the right-wing propaganda machine, and Republicans in Congress have continued to defend this president no matter what he does.
Moreover, even if the House voted to impeach President Trump, the current Republican-led Senate could decline to take up impeachment trial proceedings, and even if the Senate took up trial proceedings, it is almost certain that the Republican-led Senate would not provide the two-thirds majority vote – or 67 votes out of 100 – needed to impeach the president.
A rushed decision to vote on impeachment could end up benefiting President Trump, much like it benefited President Bill Clinton when the Republican-led House declined to conduct substantive investigations of its own and moved to an impeachment vote after the release of the Ken Starr report – a vote which the Senate then defeated, acquitting President Clinton of all charges and boosting his approval ratings.
I believe Congress should instead mirror the approach taken during Watergate, when it conducted a series of deliberative hearings and engaged in robust oversight of President Richard Nixon’s actions. These hearings eventually led to the discovery of unequivocal evidence to open impeachment proceedings against President Nixon.
The first step in Congress’s deliberative process should be to acquire the full, unredacted Mueller report. That’s why I voted in support of H.Con.Res 24, a resolution expressing the sense of Congress that Special Counsel Mueller’s final report should be made available to the public, including a full, unredacted version of the report – as well as underlying evidence – to Congress. This resolution passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 420-0. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership in the Senate has continued to block this resolution from coming up for a vote.
I am also encouraged that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler has called on Special Counsel Mueller to testify to Congress about his report, as well as Attorney General Barr.
Let me assure you that we live in a constitutional representative democracy and the president and his administration do not possess dictatorial powers. As I’ve done since day one of this administration, I will continue fighting to protect Oregonians and all Americans from this administration’s damaging actions and working to shed light on President Trump’s possible conflicts of interest.
For example, you might be pleased to know I am once again a cosponsor of H.R. 273, the Presidential Tax Transparency Act, legislation that would require sitting presidents to disclose their tax returns annually, as well as for the nine preceding taxable years. Presidential nominees of major parties must also provide this same disclosure within fifteen days of receiving their party’s nomination.
I am also happy that Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal has requested six years of President Trump’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
You will also be pleased to know that I signed onto a lawsuit filed by 200 Members of Congress in June 2017, alleging that President Trump is violating the foreign emoluments clause of the Constitution by receiving payments from foreign interests through his businesses. A federal court ruled in April 2019 that this lawsuit has legal standing to proceed. Additionally, a federal judge ruled in November 2018 that a similar lawsuit – filed by the District of Columbia and Maryland – alleging President Trump has violated the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses has legal standing to proceed.
As Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have called on the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to answer serious questions on potential conflicts of interest surrounding the federal government’s lease agreement with the Trump Organization’s Trump International Hotel, also known as the Old Post Office (OPO) building, in Washington, D.C. There are myriad constitutional, legal, and ethical issues raised by President Trump serving as both landlord and tenant of the U.S. government’s OPO building, as well as the possibility that foreign governments are spending money at the hotel to improve their relationship with the president.
In fact, in January 2019 the GSA’s Office of Inspector General released a report finding that the GSA ignored the Constitution when it determined that the OPO lease with the Trump Organization was not in violation of the emoluments clauses. In response, I sent a letter to the GSA demanding both records and responses to the many questions that I have surrounding this issue. More than three months later, the GSA has only provided some of the records I have requested and we are continuing to urge GSA to fully comply with my original request.
You might also be interested to know that I am a cosponsor of the Constitutional Commission on Presidential Capacity Act. This legislation would set up and define Section 4 of the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which empowers Congress to establish a permanent commission that can determine whether a president is able “to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Given widespread concerns about President Trump’s erratic behavior, this constitutional commission would help ensure that the security of our nation and the effectiveness of the federal government are not in jeopardy.
Additionally, the Mueller report underscored what U.S. intelligence agencies have warned about since the 2016 presidential election: Russia made significant attempts to influence and interfere in the 2016 presidential election – including propaganda campaigns on social media platforms to sow political discord, hacking email accounts, and targeting U.S. election systems – and it will likely do so again in the 2020 presidential election. Yet, as he made clear during his bizarre refusal to condemn Russia’s interference in our elections during a July 2018 summit with Russian President Putin in Helsinki, Finland, President Trump has not directed his administration to take the necessary steps to counteract foreign interference in our elections. According to recent reports, the White House has continued to rebuff calls by national security officials to take Russian interference more seriously. This is absurd and a serious threat to our democracy.
That’s why I am a proud cosponsor of H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which would counteract election interference by enhancing federal support and funding to states for voting system security. This includes implementing paper ballot systems and risk-limiting audits, increasing oversight over election vendors, and requiring the president to finally develop a national strategy to protect U.S. democratic institutions. I also joined my colleagues in signing a letter to House appropriators requesting $1.2 billion in funding for Fiscal Year 2020 to enhance election technology and security efforts across the country.
In order to protect the integrity of our elections, H.R. 1 would also reduce big money and foreign influence in politics by requiring disclosure of unlimited, secret spending – “dark money” – and banning campaign contributions and expenditures from corporations with significant foreign ownership or control. Additionally, H.R. 1 would enhance disclosure rules for online political advertisements, close loopholes for lobbyists and foreign agents, and much more. This legislation passed the House with my support on March 8, 2019.
Thanks again for contacting me on this serious issue. You can be sure I will continue working with my colleagues to stand up to the Trump administration to defend our democracy, protect vital programs, support U.S. diplomacy, and fight for equality for all. Please continue to keep in touch.
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE PETER DeFAZIO
Fourth Congressional District, Oregon