In A Scathing Letter, Trump Blasts Pelosi And Impeachment Proceedings

Dec 17, 2019
Originally published on December 17, 2019 6:09 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

All of Washington is focused on the expected House vote on impeachment tomorrow. President Trump was asked about it earlier today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you going to watch the House proceedings tomorrow?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm not watching. I haven't - I've not seen it. Look - it's a hoax. The whole impeachment thing is a hoax. We look forward to getting on to the Senate. We're not entitled to lawyers. We're not entitled to witnesses. We're not entitled to anything in the House. It's a total sham.

SHAPIRO: Well, the president had a few more things to say about impeachment. He wrote a six-page letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasting the proceedings. You are declaring open war on American democracy, Trump wrote.

National political correspondent Mara Liasson is at the White House and joins us now to talk about this letter. Hi, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: This letter is full of exclamation points and superlatives. Why did the president write it?

LIASSON: He wrote it, I think, to get a lot of things off his chest. He is hopping mad about impeachment. He's very upset about it even though he has said that he's going to benefit politically by it. This letter kind of reads like a six-page tweet, but he didn't take to Twitter. He wanted to put this in a more formal format. And he put it on...

SHAPIRO: Yeah. He said it's, like, for the historical record...

LIASSON: ...White House letterhead for the historical records.

SHAPIRO: ...So a hundred years from now, people can read what he thought.

LIASSON: Yes - and that this shouldn't happen to another president. He said more due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem witch trials. Again, he called the impeachment process a coup. He said he did nothing wrong. He complained about a long laundry list of what he called deranged and radical far-left Democrats. He named Maxine Waters and Adam Schiff. He said the Democrats have never gotten over losing the 2016 election. He says they'll pay the price in 2020. He said, you are the ones interfering in America's elections; you're the ones subverting Americans' democracy; you're the ones obstructing justice; you're the ones bringing pain and suffering to our republic for your own selfish personal, political and partisan gain. It's kind of like I'm rubber, you're glue. This was a very long, angry screed.

SHAPIRO: And some familiar arguments - one that really stood out is that he criticizes Democrats and Speaker Nancy Pelosi specifically for describing the proceedings as prayerful. What do you make of that line of attack?

LIASSON: Yes. This has clearly gotten under his skin. He said, you are offending Americans of faith by continuingly (ph) - continually saying, I pray for the president. Of course, Nancy Pelosi is a devout Catholic. He says, when you know this statement is not true unless it's meant in a negative sense. It's a terrible thing you're doing. But you'll have to live with it, not I.

And later in the letter, he also - he picks up the same theme. He says perhaps most insulting of all is your false display of solemnity. You expect the American people to believe that you're approaching this impeachment somberly, reservedly and reluctantly.

And what's so interesting is that Nancy Pelosi has gone about this in a very somber manner. There's no reporting that behind the scenes she is gleeful or gloating about impeaching the president. And this really, really offended him.

SHAPIRO: You can almost hear him shouting as you read the letter. How does this compare to the way President Clinton handled impeachment some 20 years ago?

LIASSON: Well, behind the scenes, President Clinton was also hopping mad, and he vented plenty. But he did have a different model, a different plan. He showed every day that he was demonstrating - that he was - he would demonstrate that he was working on the country's business. He said I'm going to not let impeachment distract me; I'm out here doing what the people sent me here to do. So that was his method. He didn't want to let the country know that he was really seething about it even though he was quite angry in private.

And President Trump acts like impeachment is all he has on his mind even though he's on the cusp of getting approval for his USMCA trade deal. He got approval for the Space Force. The White House has tried to showcase his other work and his victories, but he doesn't seem to want to participate.

SHAPIRO: There is one paragraph in the letter where he lists all those things (laughter) - in the six pages. But...

LIASSON: Yes, he does.

SHAPIRO: Setting aside the letter, where are we in this process? What happens next?

LIASSON: Well, the House is meeting today to determine the rules of the debate which will happen tomorrow on the floor. There's not a lot of suspense about the votes. Democrats have the votes to impeach the president. We don't expect any Republicans to cross over and vote yes. The only question is how many Democrats will vote no. We have seen a parade of Democrats from districts that voted for Trump in 2016 come out and say they will vote in favor of impeachment. And that is a big political risk. It could cost them their jobs.

SHAPIRO: And then it moves to the Senate trial. Is that also a foregone conclusion?

LIASSON: I think that the president will be acquitted. That's a foregone conclusion. Majority Leader McConnell rejected Democratic Leader Schumer's request for witnesses. In the past, Schumer - McConnell has said that calling witnesses is mutually assured destruction. Sounds like it'll be a approximately two-week trial in the Senate with no witnesses. And even though the president wanted Hunter Biden and Joe Biden and Adam Schiff to testify, he's going to let McConnell make the decision.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Mara Liasson at the White House.

Thank you.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.