OPEN LETTER TO THE WOMEN IN CONGRESS:
By Ralph Nader
February 24, 2020
Think of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Angelina Weld Grimké, Alice Paul and Jeannette Rankin. Recall their courage and leadership in comparison with the courage needed to request an investigation of President Trump’s treatment of women.
It does not take many conversations with women lawmakers and their staff on Capitol Hill to sense the deep indignation over the recidivist, serial sexual predator now inhabiting the White House as President. Since his selection by the Electoral College, Donald Trump has been embroiled in numerous tort lawsuits alleging sexual assaults with sworn testimony by aggrieved plaintiffs. He has called the charges by aggrieved women lies and showered his accusers with degrading fulminations. The credible accusations by many women, under oath, of Trump’s very brutish, violent rapacious assaults are overwhelming. As has been his practice in a bankrupt-ridden business career, Trump has thus far escaped being deposed under oath because of the well-honed dilatory tactics of his attorneys. (Unlike Bill Clinton who was deposed under oath in a tort case asserting sexual aggressions and then impeached by the House of Representatives for lying about sex).
Through his last three years as President, Trump has persisted with non-stop slanders of women, whether they are accusing him of sexual assault and battery – a felony in every state – or whether they displeased him by denouncing him for sexist behavior or other practices. On national television and before large rallies, Trump has called the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, “low-IQ Maxine Waters” repeatedly. Never any remorse nor apologies. He just doubles down with his unprecedented intimidating misogyny in action.
Last year, Trump singled out two female members of Congress by urging the prime minister of Israel to deny these two women visas to exercise their oversight responsibilities regarding U.S. foreign policy in Israel and Palestine. In so doing, he violated the spirit if not the letter of the “speech or debate” clause of Article I, section 6, clause 1 of the Constitution. Trump has never selected any male members of Congress for such exclusions. He refuses to express regrets and promise never to repeat this violation of the critical separation of powers under our Constitution. He has denied the House Speaker appropriate military aircraft for hazardous foreign travel while exercising her official oversight responsibility. Trump always has had difficulties with strong women.
Democratic women lawmakers led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand forced the departure of Senator Al Franken and Representative John Conyers for past inappropriate sexual advances. It did not matter enough that these two Democrats were champions of women’s rights in the Congress. There was an absence of due process, particularly regarding Senator Franken’s request for an ethics proceeding that was pending before the Senate Ethics Committee, despite expressions of remorse. Both women and men in both Houses just said –“get out now” to both Democratic legislators. Senator Franken and Representative Conyers complied.
What of Republican Donald Trump? His blatant sexual transgressions, boasted over national television shows, were far, far greater in number and levels of felonious violence than the above legislators. Moreover, his rise to public notoriety that in turn gave rise to his plan for the White House was partly based on his outrageous outbursts on television shows, such as those on the Howard Stern show, and what went on about his treatment of women behind the scenes of Trump’s show The Apprentice.
As related by one of Trump’s sexual victims, Natasha Stoynoff, in the Washington Post op-ed page on November 7, 2019: “Two weeks ago, 43 new allegations of sexual misconduct by Trump surfaced in a new book, ‘All the President’s Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator,’ by Barry Levine and Monique El-Faizy. My sisters and I were not surprised: we suspect there are even more out there.”
This book was given major coverage in the New York Times. A reporter there told me she was surprised at the mild response to the feature by the MeToo movement engaged in the protection of women from sexual assaults and harassments. This same citizen constituency created public awareness that led to some 200 powerful officials in the business, sports, entertainment and academic world being ousted. The book’s co-author, Barry Levine wrote that “Trump’s actions helped catalyze the #MeToo movement…”
Has Donald Trump – the bully and sexual predator – become too terrible to challenge, too much of a criminal sexual marauder gravely abusing his power and public trust, to justify impeachment and removal from office? Republican Trumpsters take note – Trump’s offenses are rooted in state statutory crimes. In addition, he criminally paid hush money to a porn star late in the election year of 2016, which is itself rooted in the violation of federal campaign finance laws having criminal penalties. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has denounced Trump, the kingpin of sexual predators in the White House. In December 2017, Gillibrand said:
“President Trump has committed assault, according to these women, and those are very credible allegations of misconduct and criminal activity, and he should be fully investigated and he should resign,” Gillibrand told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview.
“These allegations are credible; they are numerous,” said Gillibrand, a leading voice in Congress for combating sexual assault in the military. “I’ve heard these women’s testimony, and many of them are heartbreaking.”
If he does not “immediately resign,” she said, Congress “should have appropriate investigations of his behavior and hold him accountable.”
Other members of Congress made similar demands at that time. Why no action since that declaration? Why the surrender?
Public hearings by the House of Representatives and the Senate, where the assaulted women testify under oath followed by a demand that Donald J. Trump appear before Congressional Committees to respond under oath are a critical component of the lawmakers’ belief that no one is above the law. These are clearly inquiries with legitimate legislative purpose to discover the extent of violations of the laws pursuant to the available probative evidence on the record and what laws need to be strengthened.
The women in Congress have the facts, the morality and the law squarely on their side. Moreover, a CNN national poll released on November 27, 2019 reported that 61 percent of women are ready to impeach and remove Donald Trump from his office.
On January 30, 2020, over two dozen women legislators in the House of Representatives, led by Rep. Jackie Speier, Representative Lois Frankel and Brenda J. Lawrence co-chairs of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, sent a letter to President Trump reprimanding him, with graphic detail, for his “continuing derogation of women in your rhetoric and policies.” It ended with the plea: “Mr. President, instead of being the biggest bully on the playground, why don’t you set a moral example for our children?” This unprecedented admonition received almost no media, much less a response. Letting Trump get away with a sharp verbal slap on the wrist does little to counter violent behavior against women for all too many men and boys to find acceptable.
Where is the call for Congressional hearings? If these accusations by scores of women, some made under oath, turn out to be either felonious crimes or tortious wrongful injuries, such offenses are impeachable or grounds for resignation. The public has a right to know the facts and the violations of pertinent applicable laws to this boastful unrepentant sexual sadist.
Our Founders cited serious abuses of power or violations of the public trust as a prime definition of the clause “high crimes and misdemeanors,” including by no less an advocate of a strong executive than Alexander Hamilton.
Imagine the horrible precedent for future presidents and wannabe presidential candidates that are being established by not moving to hold Donald Trump accountable to the rule of law. Having gotten away with racist/bigoted policies and incitements to violence, this serial fabricator cannot be allowed to escape accountability for these egregious, chronic offenses. As collateral harm, he is shredding further the moral fiber of our society among impressionable youths, as detailed this week in the Washington Post (See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/local/school-bullying-trump-words/).
By comparison, note how the lawmakers in Albany, New York reacted in March 2008, when the New York Times reported that Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer had paid a prostitute for her service at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. Legislators especially Democrats, told him if he did not resign immediately, he would be impeached. He resigned two days later with remorse. After ending a promising political career, he subsequently said: “I resigned my position as governor because I recognized that conduct was unworthy of an elected official,” and “again apologize for my actions.”
It is true that Spitzer’s conduct occurred while he was governor. Trump’s conduct, as far as is known, preceded his taking office but is civilly sub judice and still vulnerable to criminal prosecution. Moreover, his conduct in office is deeply misogynistic and offensively sexist, with regular, crudely phrased (“She’s not my type,”) denials, not under oath, of violent encounters described in great detail under oath or ready to do so, by his accusers. At the least, a Congressional investigation would discover more of the facts and move a long overdue process of accountability forward.
I write this letter from decades of indignation over the cruel, discriminatory treatment of half the human race by the dominant male culture and its laws. As a law student I started writing about these blatant repressions, including some states prohibiting women from serving on juries as late as the nineteen fifties. I challenged our law school Dean as to why only 15 women were admitted to our class of over 500. Later, I wrote articles and sponsored books on the corporate marketplace discrimination and exploitation of women as consumers, workers, patients, and debtors. I never would have envisioned, after years of successful advances of the rights of women by organized women that such continued inaction toward President Donald Trump would presently prevail in the powerful seats of the U.S. Congress.
This letter does not in any way exonerate male legislators and staff who mostly are willing to pass the responsibility for action to their female counterparts. I have been told and have seen women staffers with frustrated, reddened faces and moistened eyes when this issue of nothing being done is raised with them directly. Perhaps they think it is not for them to speak up before their principals do, but it may be necessary for them to take the first steps.
Speaking for the scores of Trump’s victims, Natasha Stoynoff asks on their behalf “But for us, the question remains. Will this, finally, be the time when enough people care?”
The clock of history is ticking, Congress.