EGLIN AFB — President Trump likely will be facing articles of impeachment within a matter of weeks, according to U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of the president's staunchest defenders in the Democrat-dominated House of Representatives, where articles of impeachment must be approved before any trial is held in the Republican-majority U.S. Senate.
"It's a sad reality that Democrats will impeach the president prior to Thanksgiving," Gaetz said in a brief interview Friday after presenting a Purple Heart and other replacement medals to a local World War II veteran at the Army's 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) compound near Crestview.
Gaetz, a Republican who represents Northwest Florida in Congress, called moving forward with impeachment "a politically illegitimate exercise," a point he said he will continue to press in the coming days.
"I plan to make that case forcefully on behalf of my constituents, and really on behalf of our institutions," Gaetz said. "There may come a time in our nation's future where a president does something that truly is impeachable, and we undermine the Congress by having 'impeachment by reflex' in this circumstance."
As Gaetz spoke Friday, impeachment-related news was focused, in part, on President Trump's reported calls for the governments of Ukraine and China to investigate the business dealings of 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Gaetz sought Friday to minimize any perception that such discussions are out of the ordinary.
"Having met with leaders in eastern European countries, I can tell you that discussions about corruption and political opponents are rather frequent," he said.
In other comments, Gaetz compared the apparent communications now at the center of the impeachment inquiry to President Barack Obama being caught on an open microphone in 2012 telling Russian President Dmitri Medvedev that he would have "more flexibility" for negotiation after that year's presidential election, which Obama won.
"People were concerned," Gaetz said, "but nobody reflexed into an impeachment crouch."
In a related development Friday, President Trump challenged the House to take a vote on articles of impeachment.
In recent days, Trump has extensively used Twitter, routinely a favorite social media outlet for him, to rail against the impeachment investigation. Asked whether he was bothered by the president's frequent tweets, Gaetz demurred, saying, "I think that my own use of Twitter probably disqualifies me as an advice-giver on the social media platform."
Gaetz recently was chastised by a Florida Bar Grievance Committee, but avoided any sanctions, in connection with a February post on Twitter that threatened to expose alleged extramarital affairs of former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen. The tweet, for which Gaetz later apologized to Cohen, came on the eve of Cohen's testimony to a House committee, in which Cohen accused Trump of criminal activity in connection with a hush-money scheme involving a pornographic movie star.