(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump accused Nancy Pelosi of turning the House into a medieval “star chamber” in pursuit of his impeachment, lashing out at the speaker in a blistering, six-page letter and vowing her party would be punished by voters in the 2020 election.
Trump’s letter, on the eve of an expected House vote to approve two articles of impeachment, laid out his defense against charges he abused his power and obstructed Congress while also ridiculing Democrats’ allegations.
He punctuated his missive with occasional exclamation marks and hyperbole, minimizing the behavior that had led him to the brink of becoming the third U.S. president to be impeached while repeating a false claim about former Vice President Joe Biden.
“Your legacy will be that of turning the House of Representatives from a revered legislative body into a Star Chamber of partisan persecution,” Trump wrote on Tuesday. “I have no doubt the American people will hold you and the Democrats fully responsible in the upcoming 2020 election. They will not soon forgive your perversion of justice and abuse of power.”
One White House aide started a draft last week, then multiple officials played roles in the review and rewriting, including adviser Stephen Miller, legislative aide Eric Ueland and Michael Williams, counsel to the chief of staff. Trump contributed language and direction, according to people familiar with the matter. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Pat Philbin were also involved.
“Good marks and reviews on the letter I sent to Pelosi today,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday night. “She is the worst! No wonder with people like her and Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, D.C. has been such a mess for so long.”
Pelosi said late Tuesday that she hadn’t “fully read” Trump’s letter. “I’ve seen the essence of it, though, and it’s really sick,” she said.
Trump’s likely impeachment on Wednesday will add an unpredictable wrinkle to what is already shaping up to be one of the most rancorous elections in modern history. The country is roughly split on whether the president should be removed from office, according to recent polls. Soon after the House votes, Trump is expected to offer a rebuttal during his first campaign rally as an impeached president seeking re-election, in the formerly Democratic stronghold of Battle Creek, Michigan.
Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues on Tuesday that “no member came to Congress to impeach a president.” But she said: “If we do not act, we will be derelict in our duty.”
Republicans have tried to cast Democrats as singularly focused on impeachment while ignoring other issues that are important to American voters. Pelosi often responds that the Democratic-led House has passed hundreds of bills that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has refused to take up.
And Pelosi has worked directly with the Trump administration this month on major bipartisan legislation, including $1.4 trillion in government spending that the House passed on Tuesday and an overhaul of Nafta expected to get a House vote on Thursday.
McConnell said the Senate won’t take up the revamped North American trade accord until after it finishes Trump’s impeachment trial, which will inevitably lead to Trump’s acquittal. Senate Republicans favor a swift trial that is unlikely to allow Democrats to unearth any new revelations about the president’s conduct in Ukraine.
In his letter to Pelosi, the president again insisted that his interactions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which comprise the heart of the impeachment case against him, were innocent. He said the articles House Democrats are expected to approve on Wednesday “include no crimes, no misdemeanors and no offenses whatsoever.”
The charge that he abused his power by withholding U.S. military aid from Ukraine to try to force Zelenskiy to investigate a political rival “is a completely disingenuous, meritless and baseless invention of your imagination,” he wrote.
He meanwhile accused Biden of using “his office and $1 billion dollars of U.S. aid money to coerce Ukraine into firing the prosecutor who was digging into the company paying his son millions of dollars.” Former officials in the Obama administration, Ukraine and European allies have said Biden was executing U.S. and Western policy by pressuring Ukraine’s then-government to dismiss a prosecutor regarded as ineffective at fighting corruption.
Democrats’ second charge, that he obstructed Congress by refusing to turn over documents and make witnesses available in the impeachment inquiry, “is preposterous and dangerous,” Trump wrote. He argued that he only asserted “constitutionally based privileges” by withholding the witnesses and documents.
“Under that standard, every American president would have been impeached many times over,” Trump wrote.
Trump’s letter was released as the House Rules Committee met Tuesday to determine procedures to vote on the two articles. Democratic leaders said they expect hours of debate before Wednesday’s votes.
(Updates with Trump tweet, in sixth paragraph)
--With assistance from Jennifer Jacobs.
To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Wayne in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org;Justin Sink in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at firstname.lastname@example.org, Justin Blum, John Harney
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