It Sure Does Sound Like Trump Just Bragged About Obstructing Congress

Jack Holmes

From Esquire

"Honestly, we have all the material," said the President of the United States. "They don't have the material." It was some typical New York real-estate bluster: I've got it, you don't, fuck you. Except Donald Trump isn't in real estate anymore, or even in the branding business he pivoted towards later on. He's been the president for three years, and he's been impeached, and the trial is underway in the Senate, and he just appeared to admit to one of the charges against him. He just bragged about obstructing Congress, the second of two articles along with abuse of power.

The president held a press conference Wednesday at Davos—that haven for populists who represent the forgotten men and women of the American heartland—and predictably, the trial came up. This kicked off a festival of lies: the "transcript" Trump released is not a transcript and it's not exculpatory, it's incriminating. The call in question launched a frenzy of activity from Trump's aides—including stuffing the call record in a filing system meant for top-secret intel—which indicates they maybe thought something Not Good just went down. The whistleblower's account has been corroborated by witnesses under oath and on the record. None of Trump's very brave defenders will speak under penalty of perjury like those witnesses did. They insist on testifying on Fox News.

And then there was this talk of the "material."

What could Trump be referring to here other than his administration's defiance of all congressional subpoenas for documents and evidence relating to the Ukraine probe? (This is in addition to his blanket ban on anyone with first-hand knowledge of the plot testifying, while he and his allies complain that no direct witnesses have testified. A Catch-22 of Stupid.) The president's position is essentially that the United States Congress has no oversight powers over the Executive Branch. This is not exactly what the Founders had in mind. The legislature is tasked with making policy and funding it—like, say, granting nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine. The president is supposed to enforce the laws. Congress has a duty to monitor the Executive and make sure he is doing so faithfully. When the president does not enforce a bipartisan congressional resolution and does not provide an explanation, Congress has a duty to investigate why.

Photo credit: JIM WATSON - Getty Images

This is just one instance where the president has essentially rejected the legitimacy of Congress and sought to undermine the separation of powers that undergirds the checks and balances safeguarding our democratic republic. He has also sought to seize funds not appropriated by Congress to build his Big, Beautiful Wall, a direct assault on the legislature's power of the purse which, if allowed to stand, would be a critical blow to our system. If the president can use taxpayer money for whatever he wants by declaring a National Emergency he himself admits is phony, then he can do whatever he wants. That's not a president, it's a king.

But what did you expect from the big real-estate man we put in charge? The guy is not used to "checks and balances." He's used to telling some peon to get a Trump Tower built in Azerbaijan. It's no coincidence that he's ditched anyone around him who might be concerned about the institutions of a democratic republic, either. Over time, the qualifications for Executive Branch service have been whittled down to absolute fealty to The Leader. He has gotten away with this, and everything else, to the point he feels free to brag about obstructing Congress during the trial examining whether he obstructed Congress. Meanwhile, all this obstruction prevents investigators from completely exposing Trump on the other count—abuse of power—for which there is already a strong case.

Maybe chalk this up to his strategy of just saying he did the sketchy thing in public so people struggle to process that it was sketchy. Or maybe this is tied to his legal team's strategy, where they'll claim abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are not impeachable. Or maybe he just knows that the Senate's Republican majority have already betrayed their oaths to serve as impartial jurors—or, more importantly, their original oath to defend the Constitution. Mitch McConnell announced this was a sham trial long ago. They've given him the green light to lie and cheat all the way to November.

This post has been updated.

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