I told you so --- that letter was all Trump, all the way
I wrote this on Thursday:
[T]his is a very strange "legal" document, reminiscent of the amateurish James Comey "firing" memo that former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein produced for President Trump. It sounds exactly the way the president would sound if he could write in semi-intelligible language. The whole thing is basically a Donald Trump rally rant without the nasty nicknames.
On Tuesday, the Office of the White House Counsel delivered an eight-page letter to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rejecting the very legitimacy of the impeachment inquiry threatening this presidency.
The letter was notable not for the conclusion it reached—few suspected that the administration was going to cooperate with House Democrats—but for the broadsides and rhetorical flourishes it featured. That’s because this letter wasn’t fully written by lawyers.
It was crafted, in large part, by President Donald Trump himself.
According to two people familiar with the process, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone had multiple meetings with President Trump in the days leading up to the issuance of the letter. During those meetings with Cipollone, the president would get especially animated when names such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee leading the probe into the whistleblower complaint, came up. The sources said that Trump enthusiastically suggested adding various jabs at Democratic lawmakers and would request that their “unfair” treatment of him be incorporated into the letter.
The result was what Bob Bauer, who served as President Obama’s White House counsel, called a “remarkable” and “extraordinarily political document.”
Trump had also privately consulted on the letter with Rudy Giuliani, his notably pugnacious personal lawyer who is at the center of the Ukraine and Biden-related scandal engulfing the administration. Trump talked to Giuliani about how he and the White House should proceed in fighting back and challenging the legitimacy of the impeachment probe, one of the sources noted. Reached for comment on Thursday evening, the former New York mayor and Trump confidant repeatedly declined to confirm or deny this.
“President Trump took the unprecedented step of providing the public transparency by declassifying and releasing the record of his call with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine. The record clearly established that the call was completely appropriate and that there is no basis for your inquiry,” the Cipollone-signed, grievance-riddled letter reads. “The fact that there was nothing wrong with the call was also powerfully confirmed by Chairman Schiff’s decision to create a false version of the call and read it to the American people at a congressional hearing, without disclosing that he was simply making it all up.”
A White House spokesperson did not provide comment for this story.
That Trump has leaned so heavily on his own intuition in crafting the legal response to his impeachment crisis has come as no surprise to those who know him. The president has—however misguidedly—long thought of himself as more keen and cunning than his advisers. And from his rise in real estate and reality TV through his ascendance to the presidency he has shuddered at those individuals who have sought to curb his impulses, even when they’ve argued that those impulses bend the limits of the law.
And yet, Trump’s current go-with-your-gut approach stands out to many as a uniquely risky gamble. When his White House was navigating Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into 2016 election-meddling, the president early on leaned on two grey-bearded attorneys—Ty Cobb and John Dowd—and Don McGahn, a White House counsel with deep connections in Republican circles. Beyond that, he brought in Emmet Flood, a Washington, D.C., attorney well-steeped in special and independent counsel investigations, having lived through one himself.
Those lawyers are now gone. And Trump seems inclined to do little to buff up the ranks. The one person that is reportedly being added to his legal team is a former member of Congress, Trey Gowdy, who, the president says, can’t even start until January because of ethics laws.
The saddest part of this is that, as I noted in that Salon piece, I saw a bunch of Village pundits run with this "fairness" argument even though it was clearly hatched from Donald Trump's addled brain. Nobody whines and snivels about "fairness" more than Trump and nobody should take that argument from this White House as anything more than one of Trump's primal tweets.
Cipollone destroyed his reputation, and probably his legal career, with that letter. He signed it not Trump. And it will go down as one of the most notorious documents in American history. His family must be so proud.