The impeachment circus has begun – and President Trump must take advantage of a unique opportunity to seize the center ring.
Not another wave of off-the-wall tweets. Not another raucous, ranting rally.
Rather, the most powerful public relations tool of his office: the nationally televised presidential address.
No other platform packs the punch of a speech from behind the Resolute Desk. The Oval Office setting would underscore Trump’s role as chief executive, commander in chief and head of state, against whom a highly politicized impeachment should not be undertaken cavalierly. It separates the gravity of the office from personalized and polarized views of the man.
It’s a slam dunk to be aired at primetime, with far-greater ratings reach than daytime hearings. Or even tweets.
Most important, a formal address would give the president an unfiltered opportunity to gather and communicate a cohesive, reasoned narrative – instead of disjointed, emotional blasts – on the case against impeachment.
The speech should be free of Trump’s characteristic riffs and eschew divisive terms like “witch hunt” – and demonstrate that he can present a sober, rational and highly credible legal and constitutional case.
Such an apologia can provide the “message platform” for the communications campaign now being orchestrated from a White House “war room” for the chief executive and his surrogates.
So what themes might Trump offer that would prove workable for such a grown-up ”straight talk” with the American people? How about these?
- Actions constitutionally within my foreign-policy authority as president can’t by definition be impeachable ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’ Those include the right to ask foreign leaders for help in an inquiry and even engage in supposed quid pro quos to advance such an investigation. It’s exactly what former Vice President Joe Biden did with the very same country – and bragged about on camera.
- What’s more, America has a compelling interest in signaling to the world that our leaders are not ‘for sale’ to foreign entities through ‘pay-to-play’ schemes – where officials or private individuals make some sort of payment for access to power. Burisma’s disbursement of hundreds of millions of dollars to Hunter Biden appears on its face to be a classic case of pay-to-play – its lobbyists brought up his name in discussions of an aid project with the State Department.
- You’ve been hearing a lot about quid pro quos. Well, pay-to-play is practically the definition. The notion of massive payments to the son of a Vice President while his father is the ‘point person’ for America’s foreign relations with a country flunks the smell test at the very least, and could cross the line to illegality. The fact that the father is now a candidate for president makes it more, not less, important to ensure these payments were above-board.
- Moreover, it’s appropriate for the president, as chief law enforcement officer, to follow all potential threads in the current Justice Department investigation as to whether intelligence and law enforcement assets were misused as part of an effort to bring down a legitimately elected government.
- Although a quid pro quo would not be improper in either circumstance, none was insisted upon or enforced. Despite what you may have heard, my informal use of the word ‘favor’ doesn’t imply a quid pro quo – precisely the opposite. A favor is by definition done with nothing expected in return. Aid to Ukraine was temporarily withheld but was released after a relatively short delay, and a face-to-face meeting was granted with no quid pro quo of an investigation. President Zelensky says he didn’t feel pressured. And my administration has provided military aid the Obama/Biden White House denied.
- Now let’s look at the actions of congressional Democrats. Using a hidden ‘whistleblower’ to launch an impeachment inquiry is highly irregular and completely inappropriate. This mystery official had no firsthand knowledge of the call he was supposedly blowing the whistle on, and the statute allowing his complaint applies only to the intelligence community, not the president. Relying on and protecting this ‘whistleblower’ is especially questionable given that the referral of the complaint admits he has partisan ties to my political opponents.
- Finally, yes, ‘read the transcript.’ I’ve been open and above-board from the start. As soon as it was possible to do so, I took the unprecedented step of releasing a summary of the call with President Zelensky, which supports every element of my case. I did not engage in actions outside my executive authority. I did not insist on a quid pro quo of any kind. I did, properly, request assistance in investigations critical to the integrity of the law enforcement and intelligence resources of the United States and to ensuring corruption-free government in both nations.
- In contrast, the Democrats have hidden this supposed whistleblower, lied about his meeting with Congressman Schiff and staff before his complaint was filed, engaged in secret depositions and leaked out-of-context portions harmful to me.
- Those are the facts and the law. I leave it to you, the American people, to judge, and I’m confident you will do so fairly, and reject the biased, politicized and groundless charges being made.
Mr. President, you alone control the “bully pulpit.” Seize it – and make your case.
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