Editor’s Note: Frida Ghitis, a former CNN producer and correspondent, is a world affairs columnist. She is a frequent opinion contributor to CNN, a contributing columnist to the Washington Post and a columnist for World Politics Review. Follow her on Twitter @fridaghitis. The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author. Read more opinion on CNN.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday added another wild document to the mountain of evidence that will be used against him when the verdict of history inevitably concludes he was unfit for office.
In a rambling six-page letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Trump weaved together a tapestry of lies, self-pity and warped allusions to history, in an effort to craft for himself a mantle of innocence on the eve of his likely impeachment.
As ever, one wonders whether he believes all the crass nonsense he promotes or whether he’s consciously, brazenly trying to deceive the public on all counts. And that leads to the next question: Which would be worse?
Above all, and in the most serious claim in a missive that is difficult to take seriously, Trump rejected the legitimacy of the impeachment process, an indispensable element of accountability, the key tool to prevent democracy from drifting into tyranny.
And in what has become one of his trademarks, Trump accused his targets of his own transgressions. The House of Representatives appears set to impeach him for obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. Trump accuses Pelosi and Democrats of the same thing. But unlike the evidence on which the impeachment is based, the bonkers barrage in the letter is based on proven falsehoods.
The President repeated a lie so familiar, so fundamentally at odds with reality, that it was crowned as the 2019 lie of the year by the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact.
That’s no small feat. Competition this year was fierce among Trump’s thousands of lies.
The winner, reprised in Trump’s jaw-dropping letter to Pelosi, is that “the so-called whistleblower” issued a “false report of the phone call that bears no relationship to the actual phone call.” He’s referring, of course, to his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which, by the White House’s own account, he asked the Ukrainian President for “a favor,” before he would release urgently needed military aid Ukraine needed to defend against a Russian-backed invasion and an ongoing war.
The favor was for Ukraine to announce an investigation into his top Democratic rival in 2020, Joe Biden, and to speak with the “highly respected” Rudy Giuliani, who we now know was then and – incredibly – is still working on getting Ukraine to look for dirt on Biden.
The President still insists it was a “perfect call.” Americans remain divided over whether Trump should be removed from office, but they are strongly in agreement about whether or not it is OK for the President to ask a foreign government to investigate his political rivals. A new poll this week by Fox News found that by a 60% to 24% margin, voters say that is not acceptable, with only 22% agreeing that this is something that all presidents do.
In the letter, Trump repeated the smear against Joe Biden, claiming falsely that Biden did something very similar to what Trump is accused of doing, using foreign aid for personal gain. The evidence proves beyond any doubt that Biden did no such thing. But with the former vice president in the lead for the Democratic nomination, Trump will continue to push the lie.
Trump, the world’s most powerful man, and undoubtedly one of the luckiest, continue to drench himself in a thick, sticky coat of self-pity. The Salem witch trials gave more due process to the accused, he absurdly claimed, though he refused to participate in the impeachment process after Democrats invited him to do so.
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The claim drew an exasperated rebuke from the mayor of Salem, who noted that the 1692 trials targeted “powerless, innocent victims”– women who died horrific deaths.
Pelosi has already noted that, having children and grandchildren, she knows a temper tantrum when she sees one. The letter, she said, is “ridiculous”; it is “really sick.”
It is more than that. It is further evidence for the verdict of history, which is likely to impeach this President and, unlike the Republican-controlled Senate, permanently remove him from any position of honor.