Dear Congressman Reed:
I call on you to ask Donald Trump to resign from the Presidency in order to save our democracy. Please let me explain.
Donald Trump was riling up the crowd at a rally in August 2016 over the possibility that Hillary Clinton would appoint Supreme Court Justices who would take away their Second Amendment rights. He stepped over the line when he made a statement that some may interpret as a call for assassinating Clinton or the Supreme Court Justices. "If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know." Even if you argue that no sane person would interpret this as a call for assassination, not all of Trump's many millions of followers are sane.
During the second Presidential debate on October 9, 2016, Trump told Hillary Clinton that he was going to have his attorney general appoint a special prosecutor to look into Clinton’s emails and throw her in jail. For a President to announce he was going to have his political opponent investigated and thrown in jail is unprecedented. It is the stuff of banana republics.
These statements prompted me to write a column for my blog about two weeks before the 2016 election entitled "Donald Trump Is An Existential Threat To American Democracy." None of Trump’s pre-election statements seemed to alarm you too much, Congressman Reed. You just smiled to yourself and said, “Donald Trump—he’s my kind of guy.” You had endorsed Donald Trump well before he made these statements, but even after he made them you worked so hard to get him elected that he appointed you to be a vice-chair of his transition team.
Why did you work so hard to get Donald Trump elected? There were probably many reasons, but I am guessing you thought that Trump would show a get-tough attitude towards Russia. That was, after all, one of the issues you ran upon as the following Facebook posts (now deleted) demonstrate.
I’m not sure Trump lived up to your expectations regarding Russia. I’ll return to that later, but first let’s look at two events that occurred during his presidency that foreshadowed where we are today.
Donald Trump set the tone for what he expected of police officers when he spoke to a law enforcement convention on July 28, 2017. There, he suggested that officers should act as juries and punishers after they had gotten a criminal under control.
When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough. I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice.’ Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head you know, the way you put their hand over . . . [Trump mimics protecting an arrestee’s head from hitting the rough of the car.] Like, 'Don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody--don’t hit their head. I said, 'You can take the hand away, OK?
And when you heard Trump’s call for police brutality, I bet you said to yourself, “Doesn’t matter. Trump’s still my guy. I still support him.”
And then Trump separated thousands of children from their parents indefinitely and threw them in concentration camps. You don’t like me using the term “concentration camp” when referring to the facilities on the border? Well, that is the term that Andrea Pitzer, author of One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps uses to describe them. These camps are nothing like Hitler’s extermination camps, but the overcrowded conditions in them were harsh nonetheless. The New Yorker reported:
. . . a team of lawyers interviewed more than fifty children at one of those facilities, in Clint, Texas . . . The conditions the lawyers found were shocking: flu and lice outbreaks were going untreated, and children were filthy, sleeping on cold floors, and taking care of one another because of the lack of attention from guards. Some of them had been in the facility for weeks. . . .
Children described to us that they’ve been there for three weeks or longer. And so, immediately from that population that we were trying to triage, they were filthy dirty, there was mucus on their shirts, the shirts were dirty. We saw breast milk on the shirts. There was food on the shirts, and the pants as well. They told us that they were hungry. They told us that some of them had not showered or had not showered until the day or two days before we arrived. Many of them described that they only brushed their teeth once. This facility knew last week that we were coming. The government knew three weeks ago that we were coming.
So, in any event, the children told us that nobody’s taking care of them, so that basically the older children are trying to take care of the younger children. The guards are asking the younger children or the older children, “Who wants to take care of this little boy? Who wants to take of this little girl?” and they’ll bring in a two-year-old, a three-year-old, a four-year-old. And then the littlest kids are expected to be taken care of by the older kids, but then some of the oldest children lose interest in it, and little children get handed off to other children. And sometimes we hear about the littlest children being alone by themselves on the floor.
Many of the children reported sleeping on the concrete floor.
The Trump Justice Department even sent in a lawyer to argue before incredulous judges that the children didn’t even have to be provided with soap, toothbrushes or beds for their conditions to be considered “safe and sanitary.”
And I bet when you saw what was happening on the Southern border you said to yourself, “Well, this isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I still support Trump.” Your failure to withdraw your support from Trump upon seeing this will forever be a stain on your record. You should have seen this as a warning. Anyone who is so evil—so inhumane—so devoid of decency towards children could turn that cruelty on the American people.
And here we are today. On June 1 Trump had a phone call with Putin. Shortly after his phone call with Putin, Trump called our nation’s governors and told them to get tough with the protesters. Actually, he was talking about the rioters and looters, but he didn’t seem too concerned about the First Amendment rights of the vast majority of peaceful protesters that would be stomped on to stop a relatively small number of rioters and looters.
You have to dominate. If you don't dominate, you're wasting your time. They're going to run all over you, you'll look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate, and you have to arrest people, and you have to try people and they have to go to jail for long periods of time. . . .
You know what, other countries watch this, they're watching us and they say 'boy they're really a pushover.' And we can't be a pushover. And you have all the resources, it's not like you don't have the resources.
So I don't know what you're doing.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was in on the call and backed Trump’s demand to dominate the protesters by telling the governors, “We need to dominate the battle space.”
That evening the National Guard carried out William Barr’s orders to clear Lafayette Square of peaceful protesters by using pepper spray, flash-bang explosives, and rubber bullets. Trump had Lafayette Square cleared to get a photo-op of himself holding a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, presumably to show he was a tough guy who wasn’t cowering in his bunker.
Congressman Reed, I know you are religious and that you take freedom of religion very seriously. Are you as disturbed by Trump’s abuse of the Bible as much as the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, Mariann Budde, was? Here is her reaction to Trump’s visit.
I am outraged . . . . I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and was not given even a courtesy call, that they would be clearing [the area] with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop
He did not pray. . . . .He did not mention George Floyd, he did not mention the agony of people who have been subjected to this kind of horrific expression of racism and white supremacy for hundreds of years. We need a president who can unify and heal. He has done the opposite of that, and we are left to pick up the pieces.
This was hardly the only outrage during the riots. Some of the outrages involved members of the press who were subjected to pepper spray/tear gas, shot at with rubber bullets, and arrested in demonstrations during the protests. One photographer was blinded in one eye. Some of the reporters were caught up in the general violence against the crowd, but some were targeted by police even after they told the police that they were members of the press. Los Angeles Times reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske wrote a vividly harrowing column that described her experience before concluding
I’ve covered protests involving police in Ferguson, Mo., Baton Rouge, La., Dallas and Los Angeles. I’ve also covered the U.S. military in war zones, including Iraq and Afghanistan. I have never been fired at by police until tonight.
I am not saying that Trump is directly responsible for targeting journalists. But Trump has been constantly whining about fake news and proclaiming that news sources he didn’t like were “the enemy of the people.” Incidentally, this phrase, “enemy of the people” was used by the Nazis to target Jews and was used by Lenin and Stalin to attack those who disagreed with them. As far as we know, Trump has not ordered anyone to attack or harass the press. But words have consequences and he has created an environment where such attacks are more likely. And this poses a threat to our democracy because a free press is necessary to inform the people and to hold government officials accountable.
To sum up, Congressman Reed—in 2016 you insisted that we must have a President who was tough on Russia. You knew that Russia was not a country to emulate. Yet Trump has undermined our pillars of democracy in ways too numerous for me to do more than scratch the surface in this letter. We don’t have to worry about being conquered by Russia. Trump has declared war on the American people and, in a way, we have become Russia.
Of course, I do not expect you to take my word for it when I say that Trump is a threat to our democracy. After all, I have been a harsh critic of both you and President Trump. But please pay attention to what some of our highest ranking retired military officers have to say.
Four Star General Tony Thomas was the first to step up to the plate with this tweet.
The “battle space” of America??? Not what America needs to hear...ever, unless we are invaded by an adversary or experience a constitutional failure...ie a Civil War...
— Tony Thomas (@TonyT2Thomas) June 1, 2020
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey soon followed.
America’s military, our sons and daughters, will place themselves at risk to protect their fellow citizens. Their job is unimaginably hard overseas; harder at home. Respect them, for they respect you. America is not a battleground. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy. #BeBetter
— GEN(R) Martin E. Dempsey (@Martin_Dempsey) June 1, 2020
It sickened me yesterday to see security personnel—including members of the National Guard—forcibly and violently clear a path through Lafayette Square to accommodate the president's visit outside St. John's Church. . . .
Whatever Trump's goal in conducting his visit, he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces. . . .
I remain confident in the professionalism of our men and women in uniform. They will serve with skill and with compassion. They will obey lawful orders. But I am less confident in the soundness of the orders they will be given by this commander in chief, and I am not convinced that the conditions on our streets, as bad as they are, have risen to the level that justifies a heavy reliance on military troops. Certainly, we have not crossed the threshold that would make it appropriate to invoke the provisions of the Insurrection Act.
Furthermore, I am deeply worried that as they execute their orders, the members of our military will be co-opted for political purposes.
Even in the midst of the carnage we are witnessing, we must endeavor to see American cities and towns as our homes and our neighborhoods. They are not “battle spaces” to be dominated, and must never become so.
John Allen, a retired four-star Marine Corps general wrote that Trump’s militarized response to the protests, “may well signal the beginning of the end of the American experiment. “ [Emphasis Added]
Reading between the lines, this is what General Allen seems to be saying: Trump is on the verge of overthrowing our democracy and replacing it with dictatorial tyranny. It is Trump, and not the free press, who is the enemy of the people. General Allen continued:
To deal with antifa, the president even tweeted that he intended to designate the group a terrorist organization—never mind that he has no authority to designate any domestic movement as such. Those of us who’ve looked closely at homegrown violent extremism do, in fact, agree that a domestic terrorism statute should exist. And were such a statute to come into being, the obvious targets for designation as domestic terrorists are, first and foremost, violent white supremacist groups and individuals who provide material assistance to these groups. The obvious targets for designation as domestic terrorists are, first and foremost, violent white supremacist groups and those who assist them. And even if antifa is found to fit the statute as well, let me be clear: White supremacists have murdered, lynched, tortured, terrorized, oppressed, and discriminated against black Americans from the beginning of the idea of America. They have killed black Americans by the thousands, often in the most horrific ways imaginable. Far more damage to the United States has come from these terrorists—fascists, Klansmen, and neo-Nazis, all feeling newly empowered today—than those who have opposed them. . . .
. . . in a bid to create some appearance that he can empathize with those demonstrating peacefully in the streets, the president proclaimed himself the “ally of peaceful protesters.” But, at that very moment, just a few hundred feet away across Lafayette Park, fully equipped riot police and troops violently, and without provocation, set upon the peaceful demonstrators there, manhandling and beating many of them, employing flash-bangs, riot-control agents, and pepper spray throughout. These demonstrators had done nothing to warrant such an attack. Media who were watching over the scene craned their cameras to try to understand what had happened to justify this violence, until it became clear for all to see. The riot police had waded into these nonviolent American citizens—who were protesting massive social injustice—with the sole purpose of clearing the area around St. John’s Episcopal Church, on the other side of the park, so the self-proclaimed “ally of peaceful protesters,” Donald Trump, could pose there for a photo-op. . . .
Finally, the big gun—Trump’s first Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis weighed in. Reminder: when Trump picked Mattis to be Secretary of Defense, he called Mattis “the closest thing to Gen. George Patton that we have”. Here is what Mattis wrote:
We must reject any thinking of our cities as a “battlespace” that our uniformed military is called upon to “dominate.” At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict—a false conflict— between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.
We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law. . . .
Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. . . .
We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution
Congressman Reed, I call on you to put country over party. I call on you to resign from being an Honorary Chair of President Donald Trump's re-election campaign in New York. And I call on you to publicly ask Donald Trump to resign. Do this or you may one day bear the burden of knowing that you enabled the destruction of America’s democracy.
Update 6/11/20: I contacted Congressman Reed's office in Washington DC every day since June 8 and asked for Reed's comment on this article. My blog gets very little traffic and I doubt that too many people have seen this yet. That's fine. I haven't posted links to this article to Twitter or Facebook or informed his opponent, Tracy Mitrano about it. I wanted to give Reed time to look at this and publicly ask Trump to resign before I started to publicize this article. My main goal is to get Trump out of office, and if Reed will turn on Trump after reading this then I see no reason to publicize this article. I am willing to forgo the opportunity to embarrass Reed and possibly hurt his chance for re-election if he decides to do the right thing and put country over party.
I haven't heard back from Congressman Reed yet. I'm sure he's a busy man so I'll give him another day. In the meantime, there are four things I'd like to add to this post.
1) John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine Corps General and Trump's former Chief of Staff said he agreed with General Mattis' statement. Then, in one of the finest casting of shades I have seen, Kelly added:
I think we need to look harder at who we elect. I think we should look at people that are running for office and put them through the filter: What is their character like? What are their ethics?
If Trump's former Chief of staff wasn't sending us a barely coded message not to re-elect Trump, I don't know what he was doing.
2) Retired four-star Admiral William McRaven joined General Mattis in condemning Trump for clearing out peaceful protesters for his photo-op and threatening to use the Insurrection Act to have the military crush other protests around the country.
That's just not right. You're not going to use, whether it's the military or the National Guard or law enforcement to clear peaceful American citizens for the President of the United States to do a photo-op. There is nothing morally right about that.
See 4:40 - 8:00 of the following video.
3) Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark A. Milley, had accompanied Trump on his photo-op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. He has just apologized and said he shouldn't have been there since it created the perception of the military being involved in domestic politics.
4) Watch this video of police shoving an old man who was protesting in Buffalo, NY. The man falls and slams his head on the sidewalk. Blood can be seen coming out of his ear. The police walk by.
How did Trump react to this? You can see his contempt for the injured man dripping off his tweet.
Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2020
This reminds me of an incident that George Conway recalled in his absolutely must-read article "Unfit to Serve."
Trump himself has told the story of a charity ball—an “incredible ball”—he once held at Mar-a-Lago for the Red Cross. “So what happens is, this guy falls off right on his face, hits his head, and I thought he died … His wife is screaming—she’s sitting right next to him, and she’s screaming.” By his own account, Trump’s concern wasn’t the poor man’s well-being or his wife’s. It was the bloody mess on his expensive floor. “You know, beautiful marble floor, didn’t look like it. It changed color. Became very red … I said, ‘Oh, my God, that’s disgusting,’ and I turned away. I couldn’t, you know, he was right in front of me and I turned away.” Trump describes himself as saying, after the injured man was hauled away on a makeshift stretcher, “‘Get that blood cleaned up! It’s disgusting!’ The next day, I forgot to call [the man] to say is he okay … It’s just not my thing.”
So the question for you, Congressman Reed, is this: Now that you have seen President Trump's callous indifference to life, are you still going to say, "Donald Trump is my kind of guy. I still endorse him."? Or will you finally, at long last, do the right thing and publicly call for his resignation?
Update 6/12/20 6:55 am: Congressman Reed, you swore a solemn oath of officice when you became our representative. I'd like to remind you of that oath and what it means. Here is the oath that every Representative must take upon assuming office:
I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
Now, I encourage you to read A Letter to the West Point Class of 2020, from fellow members of the Long Gray Line. It is a letter signed by "over 500 West Point alumni from six decades of graduating classes who collectively served across ten presidential administrations." In particular, pay attention to what these patriots said about the importance of honoring their oath:
Your West Point journey has led you to this moment when, with right hands raised, you take an oath “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” This oath has no expiration date. The burden of responsibility and accountability will both weigh on and inspire you for your entire life. Oaths are solemn, public promises with significant meaning and moral gravity. When they are broken, the nation suffers.
The oath taken by those who choose to serve in America’s military is aspirational. We pledge service to no monarch; no government; no political party; no tyrant. Your oath is to a set of principles and an ideal expressed in the Constitution and its amendments. Our Constitution establishes freedom of the press, of assembly, of religion, of equal protection under the law regardless of race, color, or creed — we cannot take for granted these freedoms that are but dreams in too many nations around the world.
It is essential that the men and women of our military honor their oaths for us to remain a democracy. It is equally important for our Senators and Representatives to do so as well.