7 Trump administration quotes from the last week that you're going to read in a textbook one day
I am not a crook.
Some 46 years ago, President Richard Nixon made that infamous declaration during a press conference in Orlando, Florida. While the quote is not exactly another "ask not what your country can do for you," his five words, perhaps more than anything else, came to define an era of American history. Today they are printed in countless history books as a study in irony, corruption, and holding our leaders accountable.
Now, nearly half a century on, the murmurs of impeachment have started once again. And although no one can know the future, we very well may be listening to the words — or reading the tweets — that will write the chapters of our future history books. Here are seven quotes from the past week alone that students could be reciting in classrooms half a century from now.
1. "In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple U.S. government officials that the president of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election." — The whistleblower complaint, declassified Sept. 26
Over the past week, reports of an anonymous intelligence officer's concerns about President Trump's July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and the White House's attempted cover-up of the call, went from speculative to declassified. The now-public letter begins strikingly by accusing the president of the United States of pushing a foreign leader to investigate his potential 2020 political opponent.
While the identity of the whistleblower remains closely guarded, that likely won't last forever; in the words of The Washington Post, "no one expects his anonymity to last as long as Deep Throat's did." However, his name — and place in history — could likewise be a future AP History test question, depending on what happens next.
2. "You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now." — President Trump, Sept. 26
You are never really off the record — just ask the Watergate conspirators. Speaking at a private event on Thursday, President Trump was caught on tape yearning for the good old days when spies were executed. Even as a "joke," the quote is shocking, something more along the lines of what a dictator might say rather than the leader of the free world.
House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) has argued, though, that Trump's quote was intended to get out: "That kind of incitement to violence is only going to chill other witnesses when they come forward," he said. The whistleblower already reportedly fears for his safety, and the possibility of retaliation from Trump loyalists.
Then there is the fact that, as The Week's Joel Mathis points out, Trump is "the president of the United States ... We must take his words and ideas seriously."
3. "I will be the hero! These morons — when this is over, I will be the hero." — Rudy Giuliani, Sept. 26
Perhaps more than anything else, irony gives a political quote its staying power. And while this one might not be as short and sweet as Nixon's famous line, there is a certain poetry to Rudy Giuliani's insistence of his innocence to The Atlantic.
The former mayor of New York turned Trump's personal lawyer, Giuliani has been lashing-out at critics for a week. His statements, though, could potentially lead investigators to information that could make both him and his boss vulnerable. Giuliani, after all, is tangled in the Ukraine web, having allegedly attempted to "seize an unsanctioned diplomatic role [in the country] for himself," as The Washington Post reports. Likewise, in the transcript of Trump's call with Zelensky, the American president pushes his Ukrainian counterpart to coordinate with Giuliani on dredging up Joe Biden-related dirt ... multiple times.
Giuliani's insistence, then, that he will "be the hero" in this narrative seems doubtful if there is any veracity to the White House's own transcript of Trump's call. An alternative Giuliani quote from The Atlantic interview that might also find its place in textbooks could be: "If this guy is a whistleblower, then I'm a whistleblower too. You should be happy for your country that I uncovered this."
4. "If that perfect phone call with the President of Ukraine isn't considered appropriate, then no future President can EVER again speak to another foreign leader!" — President Trump, Sept. 27
Republicans are clearly struggling to spin the whistleblower complaint into a nothingburger, seeing as most aren't exactly prepared to call it "perfect."
Even with Trump's claims that the call was completely "appropriate," the White House seemed to treat the conversation differently. The New York Times reported late last week that "current and former officials said the White House used a highly classified computer system accessible to only a select few officials to store transcripts of [certain] calls," including the July call with Zelensky. Why? Well, the whistleblower has alleged that the administration tried to bury Trump's conversation with the Ukrainian president — something that wouldn't likely have been the case if the call were considered "perfect" and "appropriate" by the administration, too.
5. "If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal." — Robert Jeffress, quoted by President Trump, Sept. 29
Sometimes it's not what you say, but what you quote. On Sunday, Trump tweeted a claim by Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, who speculated that if Trump is impeached, "it will cause a Civil War."
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) slammed Trump for sharing the claim, tweeting, "I have visited nations ravaged by civil war ... I have never imagined such a quote to be repeated by a President. This is beyond repugnant." But it also might be more than just an eye-popping pronouncement: "This tweet is itself an independent basis for impeachment — a sitting president threatening civil war if Congress exercises its constitutionally authorized power," tweeted Harvard Law professor John Coates.
6. "Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser." — President Trump, Sept. 29
On Sunday, Trump claimed in a Twitter thread that he should be allowed to meet "the so-called 'Whistleblower.'" According to Brooklyn public defender Scott Hechinger, that's "grounds for impeachment, evidence of consciousness of guilt, active obstruction of justice, and just plain old unhinged and terrifying."
It's also incorrect; as Hechinger adds, "the 6th Amendment Confrontation Clause does not entitle someone to 'meet' their accuser. If this was a criminal proceeding, an order of protection would already have issued. The Constitution allows — in a criminal trial — the right to confront on the witness stand."
Trump's insistence that he meet the whistleblower also plays into a general theme of trying to expose the identity of the intelligence official, which many critics say is an intimidation tactic. It could also be literally life-threatening; the whistleblower's attorney has said "our client will be put in harm's way" were his identity to become known in the way Trump is publicly pushing for.
7. "Arrest for Treason?" — President Trump, Sept. 30
If you stop and think about it, "Trump Raises Idea of Arresting House Chairman for Treason" is an astonishing headline.
While Trump's musings about arresting Schiff became an instant Twitter meme, the reality of the quote is more worrying. Trump claims that Schiff gave a summary of the transcript that "bore NO relationship to what I said on the call [with Zelensky]," although the Times writes that the summary indeed "appears to be drawn from several portions of the call, including statements from Mr. Trump to Mr. Zelensky."
Joked Aaron Rupar of Vox: "What stage of authoritarianism is 'leader publicly calls for imprisonment of his political opponents'?"
I'll leave that answer up to the historians.
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