Former US president Donald Trump has resigned from the Screen Actors Guild, a union which represents TV, radio and film personalities, after it threatened to expel him from its ranks over his role in the Capitol riot on January 6.
Mr Trump had been a member of SAG-AFTRA since 1989. On January 19, the union’s national board decided there was probable cause that he had violated its constitution, and ordered that the case be heard by its disciplinary committee.
If the committee had found him guilty, Mr Trump could have faced a reprimand, fine, suspension, censure or expulsion.
Instead, the former president wrote to SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris today and relinquished his membership.
“Ms Carteris. I write to you today regarding the so-called disciplinary committee hearing aimed at revoking my union membership. Who cares!” Mr Trump’s letter begins.
“While I’m not familiar with your work, I’m very proud of my work on movies such as Home Alone 2, Zoolander and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps; and television shows including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Saturday Night Live, and of course, one of the most successful shows in television history, The Apprentice – to name just a few!
“I’ve also greatly helped the cable news television business (said to be a dying platform with not much time left until I got involved in politics), and created thousands of jobs at networks such as MSDNC and Fake News CNN, among many others.”
“MSDNC” is of course Mr Trump’s nickname for MSNBC. The “DNC” part is a reference to the Democratic National Committee.
“Which brings me to your blatant attempt at free media attention to distract from your dismal record as a union,” Mr Trump continues.
“Your organisation has done little for its members, and nothing for me – besides collecting dues and promoting dangerous un-American policies and ideas – as evident by your massive unemployment rates and lawsuits from celebrated actors, who even recorded a video asking, ‘Why isn’t the union fighting for me?’”
The video in question featured high profile actors such as Morgan Freeman, Whoopi Goldberg and Mark Hamill. They were protesting a change to the union’s health plan, saying it would result in some members losing their health insurance during a pandemic.
“These, however, are policy failures. Your disciplinary failures are even more egregious,” said Mr Trump.
“I know longer wish to be associated with your union. As such, this letter is to inform you of my immediate resignation from SAG-AFTRA. You have done nothing for me.”
The union responded to Mr Trump with a two-word statement: “Thank you.”
The disciplinary action Mr Trump faced was a result of his “role in inciting the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, and in sustaining a reckless campaign of misinformation”, SAG-AFTRA said after the board’s vote last month.
It said Mr Trump’s misinformation was aimed and discrediting and “ultimately threatening the safety” of journalists, many of whom are among its members.
“Donald Trump attacked the values that this union holds most sacred – democracy, truth, respect for our fellow Americans of all races and faiths, and the sanctity of the free press,” Ms Carteris said at the time.
“There’s a straight line from his wanton disregard for the truth to the attacks on journalists perpetrated by his followers.”
“Our most important role as a union is the protection of our members. The unfortunate truth is, this individual’s words and actions over the past four years have presented actual harm to our broadcast journalist members,” added SAG-AFTRA’s National Executive Director, David White.
“The board’s resolution addresses this effort to undermine freedom of the press, and reaffirms the principles on which our democratic society rests, and which we must all work to protect and preserve.”
Mr Trump has been impeached for “incitement of insurrection” over his behaviour on and around January 6. His trial in the Senate will start next week.
In other news today, the Democratic Party’s impeachment managers sent a letter of their own to Mr Trump’s legal team, demanding the former president testify during the trial.
They cited the brief Mr Trump’s team filed earlier this week, which disputed facts alleged by the article of impeachment.
“Two days ago, you filed an answer in which you denied many factual allegations set for in the article of impeachment,” the impeachment managers wrote.
“You have thus attempted to put critical facts at issue notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offence.
“In light of your disputing these factual allegations, we write to invite you to provide testimony under oath, either before or during the impeachment trial, concerning your conduct on January 6.”
Mr Trump’s lawyers quickly responded, accusing the Democrats of engaging in a “public relations stunt”.
“The use of our Constitution to bring a purported impeachment proceeding is much too serious to try to play these games,” they said.
Conviction in the Senate requires at least 67 votes, meaning 17 members of Mr Trump’s own party would need to vote against him. That is extremely unlikely to happen, so Mr Trump has little incentive to testify under oath and expose himself to cross examination.