In early May, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made an astute observation about Donald Trump and impeachment. She argued in a Washington Post Live interview that Donald Trump is “becoming self-impeachable in terms of some of the things that he is doing.” At a news conference a few days later, Pelosi elaborated, explaining that Trump “is almost self-impeaching because he is every day demonstrating more obstruction of justice and disrespect for Congress’ legitimate role to subpoena.”
Since that time, Trump has not shown any signs of slowing down with his self-impeaching ways. In fact, Trump’s brazen behavior reached a climax this week as we learned, thanks to a whistleblower, that Trump has once again been playing the election collusion game, this time trying to use Ukraine’s reliance on U.S. military and financial aid as leverage.
However, a careful look at what happened this week reveals that Pelosi’s observation is proving true in another way that she probably did not consider. It turns out that Trump has also been self-impeaching on a legal level. Something Trump did a year ago came back to haunt him in a major way this week, supplying some of the fuel that enabled the whistleblower’s complaint to get propelled into the hands of the Congressional Intelligence Committees where it belongs.
In his letter transmitting the complaint to Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, Inspector General of the Intelligence Community Michael Atkinson cited Executive Order 13848 as an authority for the “urgent concern” requirement of the whistleblower statute. In doing so, Atkinson made sure to point out that he was citing Trump as a source of authority.
First, Atkinson introduced the order by writing: “President Trump stated the following regarding foreign influence in United States elections.” He then chose to begin quoting from the order at a point that emphasizes Trump’s direct role (“I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States…”) in warning that election interference is “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” Atkinson, a Trump appointee, appeared to be almost trolling Trump here, as if to tie Trump’s own words about the evils of election interference around his neck for all to see before the scandal would explode.
The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are reviewing what the IG has deemed to be a legally valid whistleblower complaint, thanks in part to Trump. It is poetic justice that it comes on the heels of a critical step forward in the pursuit of actual justice. At this rate, Trump may graduate beyond self-impeaching. He might just figure out a way to remove himself from office, put himself in prison, and throw away the key.