The Impeachable Tweets

Trump’s admissions on social media alone provide enough material for Congress to remove him.

Someone takes a photograph of President Trump on a phone, with Trump visible in the background.
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Forget creating more committees. Forget trying to get at the secret server in the White House. Forget issuing more subpoenas that will never be obeyed. The House already has everything it needs for impeachment, right now, and all of it was provided by President Donald J. Trump. His public statements—and especially his tweets—are a record of impeachable admissions.

Like the suspect in the last minutes of every episode of Law & Order or Perry Mason, or Jack Nicholson’s bug-eyed Marine colonel bellowing at the end of A Few Good Men, Trump is a compulsive confessor. He can’t help himself. He wants you to know that he did everything he’s accused of doing, and that he had every right to do it. From abuse of power to witness intimidation, from attempts to benefit from foreign payments—emoluments, one might call them—to a betrayal of his oath to take care that the laws are faithfully executed, Trump’s tweets and public outbursts offer more than enough material to draw up multiple articles of impeachment.

The most flagrant offenses Trump has admitted to so far fall under the broad charge of the abuse of power. Trump has said that he believes Article II of the Constitution gives him the authority to do anything he wants. This, of course, is industrial-strength toxic nonsense. He does not have the right to hijack the Oval Office for personal use, something we know he’s done because the sudden presence of a microphone is, to Trump, more powerful than truth serum.

When asked about his discussions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, for example, he denied that he had tried to muscle Zelensky into investigating Joe Biden and his family. Then he admitted it. “The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption [sic] already in the Ukraine.”

Trump’s White House released a summary—it would be too much to call it a transcript—of his conversation with Zelensky, which did not help, since it confirmed that Trump had pressured Zelensky, even to the point of linking his request to military aid for Ukraine. (And remember, this is what the White House thought was the best version.) When a reporter later asked point-blank what Trump thought the Ukrainians should do, Trump said plainly, “They should investigate the Bidens.”

Trump could argue that the record is incomplete, or that he was misunderstood. He could argue, as he initially tried to do, that he can’t be impeached for a single phone call.

Even granting that dubious claim, however, it’s a matter of public record that there’s nothing singular about his obsession with the Bidens. (As Ian Fleming wrote in Goldfinger, once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.) On the South Lawn last week, Trump said, “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.” This is not a difficult sentence to parse. The president of the United States asked an authoritarian power to investigate his political opponent. This one statement alone is impeachable.

Trump and nuance are complete strangers to each other, but that didn’t stop the president’s enablers from claiming that Trump was kidding, that he had to be kidding, because obviously, any president with a lick of sense wouldn’t incriminate himself. Trump’s courtiers argued, in effect, that it would indeed be a gross abuse of power for the president to ask China to investigate Biden, and therefore the president could not possibly have been asking China to investigate Biden. QED.

But what about witness intimidation, or violations of federal law that’s meant to protect whistle-blowers? How about inciting violence against the constitutional order of the United States itself? Only a fool would admit to such offenses, or even hint at thinking about committing them. And yet Trump has admitted to all of these things.

The logical conclusion is not that Trump is innocent, but that Trump is a fool.

Here is Trump trying to out the whistle-blower while accusing anyone who provided material about the whistle-blower’s complaint of “spying” on him, and warning of “consequences.”

Here is Trump claiming that the speaker of the House and the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence are committing treason, a crime punishable by death.

Here is the president suggesting that any continued investigation of his misdeeds is a coup d’état, which itself, as the CNN commentator and retired Army officer Ralph Peters noted on CNN, could be interpreted as a call for violence in defense of the commander in chief.

And for good measure, here is Trump suggesting the purpose of the coup is to take away citizens’ Second Amendment rights and free exercise of religion.

Now we are faced with Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds. This, however, is not an impeachable act. Trump is well within his powers as president to order the U.S. military out of the way of the invading Turkish forces.

What Trump cannot do, however, is commit the United States to the economic destruction of Turkey—an act of war, to say nothing of a declaration of lunacy—and yet here he is making exactly such a threat while inexplicably claiming he’s done it before.

If the executive branch were in the hands of a committed group of patriots instead of a cabal of cronies and enablers, tweets like these might be grounds for invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. That isn’t going to happen. But each of them is direct evidence, by the president’s own hand, of a clear intention to violate both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution and any number of federal laws.

None of this is to say that Congress should not continue its investigations. The contents of the White House server will not stay secret forever, for example, and at some point, after a lengthy court battle and declassification, we will know more terrifying details about the president’s phone calls with foreign leaders. But this will take a great deal of time, perhaps even several years, and the House must move much sooner than that.

Nor is it likely that some senior White House staffer will crack and spill the beans. Neither John Kelly nor—sadly, as much as we may have counted on him—Jim Mattis is going to walk into the House and say that he has evidence of serious attempted wrongdoing, even though both of them almost certainly have such evidence in abundance. There will be no John Dean declaring a cancer on the presidency, no Alexander Butterfield revealing the existence of a taping system.

But the point is that, this time, there is no need for them. Trump is his own Dean and Butterfield, rolled into one. We know everything we need to know, right now, and it’s time to move ahead and to submit the articles of impeachment that have been drafted by Trump himself, right in front of our eyes.