An open letter to U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.):
Over the past three years, I have repeatedly called your offices to implore you to do something to hold President Donald Trump accountable for his actions. Actions such as lying repeatedly, using the office of the presidency for personal gain, firing the FBI director to try to end an investigation, banning immigrants based on their religion, saying neo-Nazis are “very fine people,” pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, putting trust in Russian President Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies, attempting to take away healthcare from millions of Americans, igniting a trade war, locking immigrant children in cages and conduct unbecoming of the office of the presidency.
Shockingly, your aides could never tell me your position on these important issues and would only say that they would “pass along” my comments. When I received written responses they failed to answer my questions or address the real concerns. Meanwhile, you and your GOP colleagues continued to do nothing to hold the president accountable for his actions and, predictably, the problems got worse.
Recently, I contacted your offices regarding the whistleblower complaint about President Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump misused the office of the presidency for personal gain by requesting Ukraine conduct an investigation of a political rival and his son. Once again, your aides could not tell me your position, and a week later I received a letter (JHB letter) from your office. The letter attempts to deflect the issue using “whataboutism,” a Soviet-style propaganda technique, by saying: “There are senior senators who in May of 2018 asked Ukraine to help investigate the Trump campaign – and nobody is talking about throwing them out of office over it.”
Apparently, you didn’t bother to read the senator’s actual letter, which simply made a public and lawful request to the Ukrainian general prosecutor to cooperate with the ongoing Robert Mueller investigation (initiated by President Trump’s own justice department) out of concern that the administration may seek to interfere with Ukraine’s cooperation by threatening to cut off aid.
If you had bothered to do any fact-checking, you would have quickly learned that this Trump talking point has been repeatedly debunked by reputable news sources such as Politifact, NBC News, CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times and Snopes.
I find it extremely disturbing that our elected representative would peddle baseless internet conspiracy theories in a letter to constituents. How can we trust you about anything when you will resort to implying a false equivalency between a lawful request and an illegal threat?
Regarding the latter issue, you say in your letter: “[I]t needs to be proven that the president coerced Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election under the threat of withholding aid. And that hasn’t been done.” This applies an improper standard to the conduct in question. Even if there were not a quid pro quo, the request would be an abuse of the office for personal gain and under Title 52 USC 30121 it is a crime to solicit a campaign contribution from a foreign national. Moreover, any reasonable person would conclude that Trump pressured President Zelensky on the call based on the call transcript context, the attempts to hide it and the texts between Ambassadors Bill Taylor and Gordon Sondland characterizing it as such.
It is also laughable to believe President Trump’s defense that his Ukraine request was motivated by an effort to fight corruption considering the corruption that surrounds him, as two of his personal attorneys – also known as “fixers” – have been under criminal investigation for acts that also implicate him.
After your and your GOP colleagues’ repeated failures to hold the president accountable, the country is now in a full-blown constitutional crisis with the executive branch stonewalling and ignoring legal congressional subpoenas, subverting the rule of law and undermining congressional oversight as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. History makes painfully clear that democracy is a fragile thing and that we are getting dangerously close to the precipice of authoritarianism. Under these circumstances I cannot understand how you can put partisan politics or even your career above the interests of the country.
You swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, but in the face of a raging constitutional five-alarm fire you continue to do absolutely nothing to put it out. Even Republican groups are calling you out for your inaction. Your extreme cowardice in the face of this crisis leaves defenders of democracy with no option but to vote you and your GOP colleagues out of office.
The fate of our democracy remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: if you fail to act, whatever good you may have accomplished in office will be long forgotten by history, and your legacy will be that of an enabler of presidential corruption and abuse of power. Now is the time to stand up for your country or step down.
Ken O’Day is a health economist. He has lived in Camas since 2014.