Letter to Trump: What you could do if you really have nothing impeachable to hide

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
President Donald Trump delivering remarks to a gathering of federal, state and local law enforcement officials in Brentwood, New York, on Friday.

Your Excellency President Trump,

I hope you don’t mind my addressing you that way. It was the original honorific for U.S. presidents, starting with Washington, although it has fallen out of use in favor of the more democratic sounding “Mr. President.” I won’t pretend that I think your presidency has produced much excellence so far, but I’m buttering you up in hopes you will consider my main point and consider making the statement I’ve roughed out for you below. (And, of course, I’m well aware that you aren’t reading this. It’s a sort of literary device.)

Also, please forgive my presumption in offering you some unsolicited advice. Obviously, you understand many things about politics that I never will. As you like to remind people, you are the president and everyone else (including me) is not. And you got the gig by, among other things, figuring out something about how to appeal to a particular 46.1 percent of voters by doing and saying things that self-appointed experts said were political suicide.

For example, when you said John McCain wasn’t a hero because he was captured, when you got into a public argument with the “Gold Medal” parents of a dead soldier, when you bragged about your special ability to grab women by their genitals and get away with it, on those and other occasions the self-appointed experts said you had crossed a line that was politically unsurvivable, and yet, survive you did.

Given which of us is president and which of us is not, you might feel justified in ignoring my presumption in offering you some thoughts about how to quiet down some of the dogs barking at your heels. Anywhere, here goes:

Maybe you already know this. Maybe everyone sees it. But I don’t hear it discussed as frankly as it should be. Every day, your Excellency, you seem to many if not most Americans to be virtually confessing that you are guilty of serious, perhaps even impeachable crimes. This is so blatant and obvious I can’t believe you (and those who defend you) don’t see it. Or perhaps you do see it but are so brilliant that you have a plan beyond the understanding of most of us, for turning that apparent problem into a non-problem.

You are suspected, by many Americans, including many in positions of authority, of a great many misdeeds, including some that might be serious crimes and a longer list that are merely shameful displays of bad character, misdeeds that render you unsuited to your current position. Many who harbor those suspicions are never-Trumpers who dislike you and always have and there is nothing you can do to win them over. Screw them, right?

But surely there are many others who once had hopes for your presidency or were at least willing to give you a chance, but who cannot ignore the sirens that are going off in their common sense, telling them that you are a crook and a liar and a cheat and a bully and an irredeemable greedhead.

Many of them (who were once willing to afford you the benefit of the doubt) have that feeling for one main reason: You won’t cooperate with any of the inquiries that seek to determine whether you are indeed a crook and all that other stuff.

Your blanket denials with no evidence to back them up, your unwillingness to give straight answers to straight questions, and your non-cooperation with perfectly legal and appropriate investigations come across as the actions of a person who has something, or a lot, to hide. Sure, the Fifth Amendment guarantees your right not to incriminate yourself. No one is asking you to incriminate yourself.

But we aren’t talking about whether you are going to jail. We are talking about whether the American people can believe that you are working for them and not for yourself. And we are talking about whether you colluded with the leading geopolitical foe of the United States to help you become president (which raises troubling questions about why such a foe would want to help you become president).

You are the first president or even serious presidential candidate in many years to refuse to release your tax returns. You’re hiding something — or quite possibly a great many things. Your excuse, that you can’t release the returns because they are under audit, never made any sense. So what if they are under audit? There’s no law against a person under audit releasing the returns they filed. The IRS knows what you filed, and (since it’s under perpetual audit) they apparently suspect you of cheating. Let’s see what you filed. We’ll listen to your explanations of your disagreements with the IRS.)

But it’s obvious not only to me but to everyone who is not besotted with your shtick that you are hiding something at least disreputable if not illegal. You haven’t even bothered to give a reason other than the transparently false one above. Keeping the returns from us doesn’t help you with the auditor, it only keeps us from knowing what shady or sharp business practices you’ve been pursuing. You insult the intelligence of even those willing to give you the benefit of the doubt when you act like you have much to hide, and your explanation/excuse for acting that way makes no sense. What goes for your taxes and your financial dealings goes for many other things as well.

You stand accused, in the court of public opinion, of many suspect acts. Your instinct in all cases is to not only deny but also refuse to cooperate with legitimate investigations. Let’s focus on the big one, which is, of course, the Russia stuff.

I don’t claim to know whether you or your son or your son-in-law or any of your hirelings literally committed crimes in their contacts with Russia. Maybe there are innocent explanations for all the things that have raised suspicions. But instead of offering those explanations, you fire the investigators (here, I’m thinking of James Comey) if they decline your request for a pledge of “loyalty,” which to all ears other than yours sounds like a request to disregard any evidence of wrongdoing on your part. That is the behavior of a Mafia don, not a president of a democracy.

Luckily (in my view), as he departed, former FBI Director Comey was able to create circumstances that led to the appointment of a special investigator/prosecutor to consider your possible crimes. And fortunately for our dear nation, a man of such integrity that – even though he is a lifelong Republican, as was Comey – was willing to take the job. Of course, I’m talking about Robert Mueller.

On the planet where I was raised, you have an obvious, easy play here, if you have nothing impeachable to hide. You say something like:

My Fellow Americans:

I have nothing to hide. I regret that circumstances have arisen that cause many Americans to doubt that. So I’m grateful that a man of unquestioned non-political professionalism and integrity like Robert Mueller has agreed to take on the task of investigating the allegations that have arisen about some of my associates and myself.

 I did not collude or conspire or cooperate with the government of Russia or any of its agents to affect the outcome of the presidential election. If I did, I should be impeached. But I didn’t, so I have nothing to worry about and everything to gain by getting out the truth on all these matters.

I pledge full and complete cooperation with Mr. Mueller and encourage all of my friends, associates, appointees and supporters to likewise support his efforts to find the truth and share it with the American people. I do so in the full confidence that I have nothing to fear from the truth. If Mr. Mueller finds that anyone working for me has committed a firing offense, they will be fired. If he finds that I have done anything wrong, I will follow his recommendations for corrective actions. If he decides I have broken any laws, I will defend myself as any American is entitled to do. But I can assure you now that I didn’t knowingly or intentionally break any laws.

I hereby publicly ask all of my friends and associates to cooperate fully with Special Counsel Mueller. With the level of cooperation that Mr. Mueller will receive from me and my administration, I look forward to the earliest possible resolution of all matters.

Instead of that, you are publicly berating your own appointed attorney general for recusing himself from any authority over the investigation of the Russian matters, which was an honorable decision he made after it came out that he had publicly (if perhaps unintentionally) misled a congressional committee about his meetings with Russian officials when he was member of your campaign team.

Instead of thanking Jeff Sessions for taking that honorable route, you berate him for doing the honorable thing, you call it “very unfair to the president” (that would be you). How is it unfair to you for him to do the honorable thing unless what you mean is that you have much to hide — which will only add to the public suspicions that you are hiding guilty knowledge in this matter.

Recently we read (and in your own tweets, among other places) that you are contemplating your pardon powers and apparently asserting that you have the power to pardon yourself. Are you really so divorced from ordinary human perceptions that you cannot see that this greatly inclines even those who have supported you to being to assume that you have committed a crime?


An American citizen over whom you preside and who would prefer, but finds himself unable, to believe that his president is not a crook.

p.s. This Washington Post story discusses a lot of methods and arguments that Trump’s legal team is contemplating to counter, frustrate and challenge his obligation to cooperate with the Mueller inquiry.   

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Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 07/31/2017 - 09:30 am.

    literary device?

    You should not have to use a ” literary device” to say the same, tired out, rehearsed, redundant article you have been writing for the last several months. It is the same article with 100 different titles.

    Repeating in different ways “trump lies” rings hallow when you refused to apply the same standard to Hilary, Obama, IRS, Lynch, democratic Russian ties, obstruction of justice and the handling of classified information along with innumerable democratic lies about health care.

    I know the democratic “base” would be upset with “real journalism,” but they too must be bored silly with CNN type written tirades from “breathless reporters” showing shock and awe over the actions of Trump with nothing to “report” during the Obama/Hilary lies.

    I guess the job of real journalist is to keep the base happy. I cannot wait to read the next “literary device” that will be used in “reporting” the same story.

    • Submitted by Sean Huntley on 07/31/2017 - 10:39 am.

      Thank you Mr. Gotzman

      You have provided a textbook example of “Whataboutism”. Well done!

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/31/2017 - 10:52 am.

      Sorry, all of those Obama “scandals” were investigated already–repeatedly–and no there there. Not for people trying–repeatedly.

      Buck up, it’s only been 6 months. Being a Trump-supporting conservative guarantees a lot of uncomfortable posturing.

    • Submitted by LK WOODRUFF on 07/31/2017 - 12:05 pm.

      Trustworthy journalism is hard to come by these days…for some.

      Here’s some honest, factual ‘reporting’:

      Fox News, Breitbart, Drudge, InfoWars, Rush Limbaugh and his ilk…do not comprise journalism.
      And soon there will be Sinclair, too, spreading it’s own brand of mind poison. These ‘news sources’ have never been about the truth. Nope, they have their own vested interests. They have instead chosen to work in lock step with the REPs, Conservatives, Evangelicals, Neo Cons, Freedom Caucus and more to spread their own insidious form of propaganda over the past 40 years. And they have been highly successful! They have whipped their REP constituents into an absolute frothing frenzy of outrage, much of it aimed in character assassination directly at the Clintons (for about 26 yrs now), and at Obama through his just ended 8 year presidency. They have spent years and years and milllon$ of tax payer dollars (!!!) on hearings and investigations (witch hunts) yet never produced ANY proof of wrongdoing. Not one iota. Yet they persist. They have also helped to drive the ‘alternative facts’ we are all faced with daily today. They played a HUGE role–with help from the Koch Bros, the Mercers and the Russians–in placing ‘birther’ driver, Trump–he of all of the blatant lies and delusion and corrupt behaviors and connections–into the White House. And he and Bannon, his R-hand man, white supremacist and stalwart Libertarian, have publicly proclaimed that they intend to “completely obliterate our federal government”. Indeed they are hard at it. If they succeed, life as we all have known it will cease to exist.

      So stop blaming the DEMS for EVERYTHING They have worked hard and consistently for years to help lift up the ‘little people’, to help ensure that we all have equal rights and protections and available educational opportunities and healthcare, etc. The DEMs are not the ones who have tied themselves to corporate America and granted them ‘personhood’. Nor are they the ones undoing all of Obama’s efforts in petty childish behavior, or selling our public lands to the fossil fuel industry and destroying the natural habitats of our remaining wildlife. No, the DEMs are the ones trying to save the planet; not destroy it!

      Please get and keep the facts straight. Because the continued success of the USA depends upon it.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/31/2017 - 03:44 pm.

      There’s Nothing There

      Mr. Gotzman, your comment does nothing more than highlight the emptiness of contemporary conservatism. You have nothing. You are defined by your oppositions and your hatreds.

      Republicans opposed the Affordable Care Act from day 1, most likely because it’s called “Obamacare.” Have they ever offered a palatable alternative? For all the times that there was a vote in the House to repeal the bill, was there ever any legislation introduced to replace it, or make it better (I’m not talking about hypothetical discussions, I mean actual bills placed in the hopper)? If so, were any of them as much as heard by a subcommittee?

      Of course not. The Republicans don’t care about legislating. They win elections to do–what, exactly? Make noise? Get on the news. Gin up phony battles about who uses what bathroom? Heck, it works better than passing bills!

      This intellectual emptiness spills over into the ethical realm. The President your party foisted on the nation is a crook, a liar, and unquestionably unfit to be President. Can you stand up to his ethical transgressions? No! We’re going to hear whining about how unfair it was that we didn’t hear about Obama’s scandals. Of course, we did hear about them, but much to the chagrin of Republicans, the voters didn’t seem to give them much heed (that is what is meant by media bias–the hoped-for reaction didn’t happen). We’ll also hear dark imprecations about Hillary Clinton (who is not given the respect of a last name, her title, or even having her name spelled correctly), and how we never heard about them enough except on Fox, Breitbart, etc. It’s SO unfair!

      This is the rhetorical style of a cranky toddler. Does it win elections? Apparently. Does it govern the nation? Surely you jest.

    • Submitted by Ray J Wallin on 07/31/2017 - 10:39 pm.


      Exactly, Ron. These articles get old. I get NY Times articles like this on my FB feed, too. I’m sure it feeds their base. This site puts out a lot of good facts and perspectives but many articles can’t help but whine about yesterday.

      Does anyone really believe that if Trump were to release his returns, those on the left would say ‘thank you so much,’ and not rip apart every line?

  2. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 07/31/2017 - 10:35 am.

    C’mon, Ron. Eric’s essay is part of journalism that is not investigative reporting to give us hard facts, or even the print-their-press-release lazy journalism that fills most daily papers. It’s an opinion piece. That’s why Eric is permitted to use any literary device he wants, as he interprets and satirizes the Trump phenomenon.

    He is here playing with the idea that so many things Trump has been doing and saying indicate a bad conscience–that Trump is hiding something pretty important about his business dealings. More and more Americans are beginning to doubt and second-guess everything Trump or one of his surrogates says or does, because the lies are profuse.

  3. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 07/31/2017 - 10:54 am.

    If you do have things to hide

    You bring in capable defense attorneys whose objective is to limit the scope of an investigation. You pull certain canned phrases of the shelf and open them up. You say things “this is an investigation in search of a crime”. or “there is no evidence of wrongdoing” or my personal favorite, “this is all a fishing expedition”.. You take advantage of one of the huge benefits of being a defense attorney, the fact that you are allowed to state and argue your case before the media. However, you do so in a way that avoids substance. You don’t commit yourself to any view of the law or any particular set of facts. You keep it vague, metaphorical, and cliched. What you don’t do, above all else, is never, never, ever, ever make your client available to answer questions.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/31/2017 - 10:56 am.

    The job of journalism

    …as this non-journalist understands it, is to put in front of the public things (“things” being facts, statements, conclusions, and other verifiable items) that those in power generally, or particular individuals in power, would rather not see the light of day, meaning those individuals would prefer that those “things” *not* be put in front of the public. It appears to me that, in regard to Mr. Trump, Eric is merely doing the job of journalism as it’s generally done. If it seems like the same story is being told over and over, it’s worth suggesting that this pattern might be caused by Mr. Trump engaging in the same sort of behavior over and over.

    Mr. Gotzman, as has often been the case since November, 2016, has failed to note, while making a variety of accusations, mostly implied, that the people he is working so hard to accuse are not the current President of the United States. I’d like to see some conclusions reached, for example, about Hillary Clinton’s role in the Libyan attacks on the American embassy there. Perhaps she was negligent as Secretary of State, but even if so, negligence is not synonymous with criminal intent or behavior.

    In the meantime, “democratic lies” about health care is a nice propaganda phrase that carries little meaning. What lies, specifically, are being referred to? If it’s the oft-quoted “You can keep your doctor,” we should note that, while the unfortunate phrase turned out not to be true in some cases, I’ve seen no evidence on the record that President Obama purposely and with forethought intended to deceive the American public when he made the statement. The health-care plan enacted by Congress while Obama was President (The Affordable Care Act, which is based on a Republican plan) turned out to be more complex, and in a few instances, more expensive, than was initially thought, and did not always allow people to continue seeing the physician they were accustomed to seeing. At the same time, that plan allowed millions of Americans who had no access to affordable health care to finally acquire such access.

    That seems to me a worthwhile trade-off, with, once again, no criminal intent or behavior.

    If having to switch doctors or endure a health insurance premium increase is the worst thing that Mr. Gotzman, or any other American male, encounters, he’ll have lived a very privileged life, indeed, and no one should take his complaints about health care seriously as a result. In any case, having to change doctors is rather far removed, ethically and legally, from getting presidential election assistance from a foreign, one might even say “rival,” government.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/31/2017 - 12:53 pm.

      And to repeat….

      Insurance companies were increasing rates, canceling policies, refusing coverage, and changing the doctors in their networks long before the ACA.

  5. Submitted by Misty Martin on 07/31/2017 - 12:19 pm.

    Keep up the good work, Eric.

    I’m happy to read articles written by someone who is not “blinded” by the present Presidential Administration and what it claims to stand for. This Trump Administration seems more like a re-run of The Apprentice than anything else I can think of. Whether it’s the recent firing of Reince Priebus, the White House Chief of Staff, or the resignation of the White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer (I bet he couldn’t get out of there fast enough, poor guy!) it’s all the same. And while I’m no fan of Jeff Sessions, I still believe that President Trump should stop bad-mouthing the poor guy on Twitter, etc.

    I read an excellent article by David Leonhardt in Opinion Today published by The New York Times and in it he refers to another author, John J. Pitney, who happens to be a political scientist, and who wrote a piece in Politico addressing Trump’s loyalty problem: remember how President Trump demanded loyalty from former FBI director, James Comey, who instead pledged him honesty (something I’m sure was foreign to President Trump) and it this article, Pitney writes that “He (Trump) thinks loyalty flows only one way.” Pitney writes that President ‘Trump’s life has been a long line of betrayals.’ Pitney writes that “He (Trump) has dumped wives, friends, mentors, protégés, colleagues, business associates, Trump University students, and more recently political advisers.”

    I’ll close with a quote from Archibald Cox, who was the Special Prosecutor fired by Robert Bork, the Solicitor General of the United States, as acting head of the Justice Dept., via an order from then President of the U.S., Richard Nixon, regarding the Watergate scandal, and what became known as the ‘Saturday Night Massacre’: “Whether ours shall continue to be a government of laws and not of men is now for the Congress and ultimately the American people.” – Archibald Cox

    I guess time will tell.

  6. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 07/31/2017 - 02:35 pm.

    “Another One Bites the Dust”……

    So, Scaramucci is the latest victim of Trump’s childish tirades……whose head is the next one to be cut off by this 3rd world dictator ?
    Eric Black’s Trump exposures and queries are what Democracy is all about and only the blatant refusal by Trump’s thick-headed voters will continue to give Trump the blind belief and off-the-wall excuses for his non-Presidential actions needed by him in order to continue on his destructive ways.
    This man and his minion followers are a major step back in human progress at a time when the edge is so near.

  7. Submitted by Howard Miller on 07/31/2017 - 02:53 pm.

    regular exposure to Mr. Black’s journalistic opinion …

    …. often ends up educating me and informing me about details of our self-governing system, how things work or not, how things started back in the day. One of the best op-ed sources in the USA today in my view. Keep your fine work flowing, Mr. Black. May you never run short of electronic “ink”!

  8. Submitted by Tim Smith on 07/31/2017 - 08:13 pm.

    Take for what it is

    Opinions repackaged n cherry picked facts n “reason” meant to advance one party over the other, nothing new. Liberal democrats need to stop being the party of no, anger n protest and start connecting in a positive way with those in the middke class who keep rejecting them.

    • Submitted by Tom Karas on 08/03/2017 - 10:05 am.

      quite right–

      Opinions repackaged n cherry picked facts n “reason” meant to advance one party over the other, nothing new. Doofus conservatives need to stop being the party of no, anger n protest and start connecting in a positive way with those in the middle class who keep rejecting them.

  9. Submitted by Daniel Gardner on 07/31/2017 - 10:08 pm.

    Our country

    We can only hope that our present legislative branch will use the same diligence it did back in the 1970’s to “watchdog” the executive branch. If the result is the same, we can be satisfied that our government still works. If not, I worry for our future (and especially the future for our children/grandchildren). Thanks for the fine words of so many who see the direction our country is going under the present executive leadership.

  10. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/01/2017 - 02:38 pm.

    Liberal Democrats

    In fairness, the Democratic Party is the party of “yes”. It’s the other party that pretty much wants to say no a lot. Even where they say yes, it’s mostly an effort, as with health care, or discrimination, to resurrect some previous failed attempt at obstructionism.

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