It feels like we’ve reached a breaking point. In the last 48 hours, Donald Trump has threatened to revoke the broadcasting licenses of news organizations that don’t flatter him. He’s mused out loud his disgust at the fact that “the press is able to write whatever they want.” He’s taken it on himself to destroy the Affordable Care Act through executive order. Just before that, he coerced a private professional sports organization into restricting its players’ First Amendment rights through threats of tax penalties. People in Puerto Rico are dying.
Scroll down for full text of letter and downloads.
Then again, it always feels like we’re at a breaking point. Trump began his campaign for president calling Mexicans rapists. He demeaned American war heroes and their families. He boasted about sexually assaulting women. He refused to release his tax returns. Once elected, he proceeded to install arguably the most corrupt and inept cabinet in American history.
He’s defended Nazis. He’s demonized minorities. He and his motley crew of enablers, sycophants, and billionaires are working desperately and efficiently to destroy the American system of democracy from within. They know this is their only chance.
It always feels like we’re at a breaking point.
Evidence that a foreign power supported his campaign with the campaign’s knowledge and encouragement is growing by the news cycle. Accusations that his businesses were straight-up Russian money laundering facilities are growing more and more convincing. His administration has shut down State Department press briefings while his supposedly Christian press secretary lies gleefully from the podium during the intermittent press conferences that were once held daily under every past administration in recent American history.
Something’s gotta break.
Deborah Harbin, a professor and friend of mine, has had enough. She spent days drafting a letter pleading with our congressional leaders to stand up and do the right thing. Point by point, it devastatingly rips apart the Trump administration’s legitimacy. It’s eloquent, it’s effective, it’s the right letter for the right time.
“I’m afraid of our government,” Harbin said. “I recognize that Trump is just one extreme and particularly virulent symptom of a government corrupted over many decades. But he is directly attacking our ideals, yes, but also our neighbors and our allies and our friends. He’s hurting the poor, and he’s doing so callously and dismissively. He dismisses the concerns of the black community using words like “patriotism” and “free speech,” all the while demonstrating through his actions a disregard for the essential freedoms the U.S. was (meant to be) built on.”
Her message: Remove Trump from office, and do it now. Whether through the 25th Amendment that allows for the removal of the president because he is unfit, or Article 2 which allows for the impeachment of the president for high crimes and misdemeanors, Trump has got to go.
Slowly but surely, Republican congressmembers are speaking out. The most recent example is Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. His much-hyped Twitter feud with Trump, paired with a brazen interview with the New York Times–in which he made sure reporters were taping the conversation–has put a crack in the dam.
Harbin’s letter looks to hammer at that dam, and spread those cracks. It’s a shame that a year ago we were looking forward to putting a million cracks in the glass ceiling, and now we’re simply trying to put 52 cracks in a corrupt wall of silence bolstered by the folks who are meant to be representing our nation’s best interests. But here we are.
Read the letter in full here. Emulate it. Use it as a template. Send it to your reps.
To all Senators, Members of Congress, and other government officials:
I am writing to you to urge you to join the effort to remove Donald Trump from office by whatever means you determine most fit, whether under Article 2, under the 25th Amendment, or by other legal means. It has become nakedly apparent to a growing majority of The People that Donald Trump is unfit to serve as president. He launches continual attacks on the safety, security, & liberty of The People, often focusing his unjust aggression on individual Americans. He threatens the republic by undermining essential constitutional protections, alienating our allies abroad, & willfully agitating nuclear powers to rise up against us.
There is no way to exhaustively address in one letter the mountain of violations that Donald Trump has committed since Election Day. For that reason, I will address the three categories of safety, security, & liberty in brief, knowing that you as governmental leaders are familiar with many other examples.
- Donald Trump has directly weakened the safety of the United States by weakening her relationship with allies & provoking foreign powers. He has also neglected the safety of specific American populations:
- The threat posed by Kim Jong Un & North Korea stands out as an urgent concern. Trump has refused the guidance of advisors & allies, seeking to aggressively offend, alienate, & insult North Korea. The result, as you know, is that North Korea has intensified aggression toward the U.S. in kind, directly threatened Guam, & brought the specter of nuclear war to our shores for the first time in decades.
- Though Guam is of course a territory of the U.S., Trump has particularly ignored their safety & well- being in this stand-off, dismissing the danger even as Guam’s leaders prepared for possible attack.
- Puerto Rico has also recently suffered the misfortune of becoming a target of Trump’s negligence & petty reprisals. While that island territory & her citizens – Americans all – have suffered & waited & pleaded for aid, Trump has directed his energies to picking fights at home &, ultimately, with Mayor Cruz of San Juan. In light of her pleas for further support, he has responded defensively, insisting that Puerto Rico’s post-Maria condition is not a real disaster, dragging his heels, & ending suspension of the Jones Act. Instead of helping, he obstructs aid to our fellow Americans in a shameless & treasonous way.
- Where Trump does not activate immediate threats against The People, he persistently undermines our sense of security, consistency, & trust in the future:
- Trump has appointed deeply unqualified individuals to high offices in the government, often despite (or because of) those individuals’ personal opposition to the missions of the departments or agencies they will run. Betsy DeVos routinely shows not only her ignorance of the basic duties of her position but also her distaste for public schools & their mission. Scott Pruitt has already set to gleefully dismantling the essential functions of the EPA, which he supposedly was appointed to support. As a result, our critical government agencies are facing direct threat of becoming deeply ineffective or even imploding.
- Trump has done irreversible damage to our relations with key allies. In the wake of the London attacks, for example, Trump shamelessly insulted Mayor Sadiq Khan, alienating not only Londoners but Teresa May & all of Great Britain. He has similarly attacked, insulted, disgusted, & offended the leaders of other nations, materially weakening our relationships around the world.
- Frighteningly, Trump often attacks individuals over Twitter or in other venues. Some of these individuals are perceived government enemies, others governmental allies. Even more frightening, he sometimes turns his megaphone on private citizens, from athletes to journalists to others, who do things he doesn’t like. Sometimes he recommends firings or otherwise threatens individuals. Recently, he described how NFL owners should not only fire players but deploy security to bodily drag them from the field for peaceful & patriotic protest. In such an environment, no American can feel fully secure.
- It is difficult to find a sense of security when the nation’s chief executive is under investigation for colluding with foreign powers & undermining our electoral process. We don’t yet know whether Trump holds his position legitimately. Worse, Trump appointed Jeff Sessions in hopes, by his own admission, of muting the Russia investigation; then, when Sessions rightly recused himself, the president attacked him publicly. Trump fired James Comey for dutifully investigating Russia & has threatened to fire Robert Mueller, providing no grounds except his own unregulated anger. No one – even Trump’s supporters – can feel secure when the legitimacy of the office is in question, & Trump has done nothing but add to that sense of uncertainty, affirming through his actions that he may have much to hide.
- Trump has attacked the liberty of everyday citizens & residents in an unprecedented way. In particular, he has sought to weaken & undermine the following constitutional freedoms:
- Freedom of the Press. Donald Trump’s attacks on the nation’s press have been extreme & profoundly in conflict with the preservation of a free society. From the beginning of his administration, he & his staff have lied to the press, tried to limit their access to information, & even threatened to cease press briefings altogether. Trump has undermined the labors of reputable journalists by publicly & constantly insisting that factual reports were lies & by calling them “fake news” – all the while tacitly endorsing sources like Breitbart, who thrive on false reporting. He has brazenly insulted individual members of the press like Mika Brzezinski, & defamed others like Jemele Hill. Just today, after NBC printed an unfavorable report on Trump’s approach to defense, he directly threatened their license. When the president actively threatens the press for unflattering coverage, how can we say we have freedom of the press?
- Freedom of Religion. Before becoming president, Trump promised to impose a Muslim ban on travel from other countries; since becoming president, he has issued travel bans targeting Muslim countries. Courts have ruled these executive orders discriminatory, & even now, two changes later, the order has not been affirmed as constitutional – yet it is still being partially enacted.
- Freedom of Speech. Trump’s insistence on threatening perceived enemies publicly has resulted in a deep erosion of freedom of speech over just a few months. He has threatened NFL players for their participation in peaceful protests. He has attacked Jemele Hill for calling him a white supremacist, just weeks after he defended the rights of white supremacists to freely spread their own violent ideas. He has insisted he has a right to pressure the NFL to punish players who protest – even though the protests fall firmly within the realm of protected speech. He’s attacked leaders of unions, staffers from other campaigns, fellow members of government, & many others for speaking out against him.
This list of grievances is so abridged that it barely begins to chronicle the ways this president makes Americans fearful, aggrieved, threatened, & insecure. We are only recovering from one shock when another one rolls over us. We just get our balance from the fact that our Muslim neighbors are being attacked to find that our black neighbors are being attacked; we stop grieving the attacks on our National Park System to turn our attention to attacks on our educational system. I wrote this letter on the 11th and now, on the 13th, am sitting down to add that in the last 48 hours, Trump has directly threatened the free press with presidential censorship and has also attacked the poor and the stability of the health care system by withdrawing funding Affordable Care Act subsidies. Each new action feels to many of us – by the polls, perhaps the majority – like a fresh and direct assault against us.
I would venture to declare that when we look at his actions, we can see that Donald Trump, our nation’s Commander in Chief, tasked with defending the constitution, is an enemy of freedom. He does not want a free press, free speech, or freedom to practice religion. We, The People, see what is happening, & we’re scared.
At this stage, there is no option but removal. Donald Trump’s presidency is so fundamentally damaging to the foundation of the nation that he cannot be allowed to continue as president. Please take actions to impeach Donald Trump or relieve him of his duties. It is essential that government leaders unite to do so before he does even more damage.
With firm resolve,