House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald Trump, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., argue during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, in Washington.
Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Losing the debate, Trump, Rubio run with manipulated Pelosi quote

Updated

A little after midnight, Donald Trump apparently saw something on Fox News that inspired him to publish a tweet: “Nancy Pelosi just stated that ‘it is dangerous to let the voters decide Trump’s fate.’ … In other words, she thinks I’m going to win and doesn’t want to take a chance on letting the voters decide.”

The president added, “Wow, she’s CRAZY!”

This morning, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who really ought to know better, picked up on Trump’s line, publishing a similarly misguided missive: “Speaker of the U.S. House of [sic] says its ‘dangerous’ to ‘let the election decide’ if [the president] should remain in office. Translation? ‘We can’t trust backwards, uneducated, everyday people to decide the Presidency, this must be decided by the enlightened people in Washington D.C.’”

Since this is apparently poised to be the Republican Party’s new toy, it’s worth pausing to shine a light on reality. Yesterday afternoon, around 2 p.m. (ET), Speaker Pelosi sent a letter to House members on the congressional impeachment inquiry. It read in part:

“The facts are uncontested: that the President abused his power for his own personal, political benefit, at the expense of our national security interests.

“The weak response to these hearings has been, ‘Let the election decide.’ That dangerous position only adds to the urgency of our action, because the President is jeopardizing the integrity of the 2020 elections.”

Even those with modest reading-comprehension skills can see Pelosi did not write what Trump and Rubio claimed.

On the contrary, the Speaker raised an important point that Trump, Rubio, and other Republicans have struggled to address.

As we discussed last week, a variety of prominent GOP voices – former Ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), et al. – have made the case that lawmakers should skip impeachment proceedings and simply allow the 2020 election to decide Trump’s fate. If the American electorate has a problem with Trump’s abuses, they can choose someone new. If voters are unmoved by the president’s corruption, they make that clear, too.

The trouble, of course, is the nature of the scandal itself. One of the key pillars of the whole controversy has been a simple fact: Trump intended to cheat in the election by way of an extortion scheme. The president, rightly or wrongly, saw Joe Biden as a credible electoral threat, which led him to push a vulnerable foreign ally to cook up some dirt Republicans could use before Election Day.

To let this go unpunished is to effectively encourage the president who knows no limits, and believes there can be no checks on his misconduct, to keep exploring other cheating options.

The broader national goal should be to ensure that the United States has a free and fair election next year. Trump has already taken steps that are fundamentally at odds with that goal.

It’s not as if the president has rolled out some kind of “mea culpa” defense, acknowledging poor judgment, and assuring the public that he intends to stop trying to screw around with the 2020 cycle. On the contrary, Trump has done largely the opposite, insisting his actions were “perfect,” permissible, and literally unimpeachable.

To ask “the American people” to decide the proper resolution is to assume the president intends to play fair over the next 12 months. Trump has already made it painfully obvious that he has a very different plan in mind. As former Solicitor General Neal Katyal recently put it, “Asking us to wait until the election to remove him from office is like asking to resolve a dispute based on who wins a game of Monopoly – when the very crime you’ve been accused of is cheating on Monopoly.”

This is the point Pelosi made in writing yesterday. It’s also the point Republicans like Donald Trump and Marco Rubio seem eager to avoid.