Mr. President, today the U.S. Senate is called upon to uphold our oath of office and our duty to the Constitution because President Trump failed to do so himself.
After listening closely to the impeachment managers and the president’s defense team… weighing the evidence that was presented to us -- and being denied the opportunity to see relevant documents and hear from firsthand witnesses -- I will vote to find President Trump guilty on both articles of impeachment.
I take no pleasure in voting to impeach a president and remove him from office.
I agree with those who say impeachment should be rare… and American voters should decide our elections.
That is why it is so galling President Trump blatantly solicited foreign interference in our democratic process. And he did it as he geared up for re-election.
The evidence shows President Trump deliberately and illicitly sought foreign help to manufacture a scandal that would elevate him by tarnishing a political rival.
He attempted to undermine our democracy, using U.S. taxpayer money in the form of U.S. military aid for Ukraine as leverage for his own personal benefit.
The President’s aides who heard President Trump’s call seeking “a favor” from the Ukrainian President immediately sensed it was wrong. So when they alerted the White House lawyers, the record of the call was immediately placed on a highly classified computer system.
And despite the President claiming that the version of the call that was publicly released “is an exact word for word transcript of the conversation,” we know from testimony that there are key omissions in the document we all read.
Compounding the President’s misconduct, he then engaged in an extended cover up that appears to be ongoing to this day.
There is a lot to unravel here, and I will provide a more detailed legal explanation in the near future.
But, for now, let me briefly explain my decision… and outline my thoughts on the Senate’s impeachment proceedings… and the disturbing precedents I fear will be set when the Majority chooses to side with the President over the Constitution’s checks and balances.
The House of Representatives voted to impeach the President for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Based on the uncontested evidence, I concur.
It is clear that President Trump, and others -- such as Mr. Giuliani, who was serving as the President’s lawyer -- attempted to coerce the newly elected President of Ukraine to announce two sham investigations, including one that sought to directly damage President Trump’s rival in the upcoming election.
The President’s actions served his personal and political needs… not those of our country.
His efforts to withhold military aid to Ukraine for his own personal benefit undermined our national security.
The second article of impeachment charges the President with obstruction of Congress for blocking testimony and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry.
Again, the House Managers produced overwhelming evidence of the President’s obstruction and his efforts to cover up his malfeasance.
The President’s counsel offered a number of unpersuasive arguments against this article, which fail to overcome the following:
First, that the legislative branch has sole power over impeachment under the constitution. That couldn’t be more clear.
Second, past precedents of prior administrations and court rulings.
Third, the blatant October 8th letter expressing a complete rejection of the House’s impeachment proceedings.
The Constitution grants the Executive branch significant power, but as every student in America learns: our system is one of checks and balances so that no branch is entirely unfettered from oversight and the law.
President Trump would have us believe this system of checks and balances is wrong.
In President Trump’s own words, he expressed the misguided imperial belief in the supremacy of his unchecked power, stating, quote: “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as President.”
Couple this sentiment with his January 2016 boast that, quote: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
That paints a chilling picture of someone who clearly believes – incorrectly – that he is above the law.
The President’s attorneys have hewn to this line of faulty reasoning and, in one notably preposterous effort, even claimed the President could avoid impeachment for an inappropriate action motivated entirely by his own political and personal interests.
The President’s defense also failed to sufficiently demonstrate that the President’s blanket defiance of subpoenas and document requests overcome the precedents established in prior impeachment proceedings… and the record of congressional oversight of the Executive branch.
In the Clinton impeachment, there was an enormous amount of documentary evidence, as well as sworn depositions and testimony by the President and his closest advisors.
In the cases of “United States v. Nixon,” “House Judiciary Committee v. Miers,” and others, the House Managers rightly point out that the courts have held “Congress’ power to investigate is as broad as its power to legislate and lies at the heart of Congress’ constitutional role.”
While President Trump’s impeachment lawyers claim the House should take the President to court over these previously settled issues, President Trump’s lawyers at the Justice Department are simultaneously arguing in the courts that the judicial branch cannot even rule on such matters!
As President Trump staked out new, expansive, and aggressive positions about executive privilege, immunity, and the limits of Congress’s oversight authority, Republican leaders went along with it.
I’ve heard a variety of explanations for why my Republican colleagues voted against witnesses.
But no one has offered the simplest explanation: My Republican colleagues did not want to hear new evidence because they have a hunch it would be really, really bad for this President. It would further expose the depth of his wrongdoing. And it would make it harder for them to vote to acquit.
My colleagues on the other side of the aisle did not ask to be put in this position. President Trump’s misconduct forced it on them.
But in the partisan rush to spare President Trump from having his staff and former staff publicly testify against him under oath… a bar has been lowered… a constitutional guardrail has been removed… the Senate has been voluntarily weakened… and our oversight powers severely diminished.
This short-term maneuver to shield President Trump from the truth is a severe blow against good government that will do lasting damage to this institution and our democracy.
I hope one day the damage can be repaired. The arc of history is indeed long, and it does bend toward justice – but not today.
Today, the United States Senate, and the American people, have been denied access to relevant, available evidence and firsthand witnesses.
We’ve been prohibited from considering new, material information that became available after the House’s impeachment vote.
The Constitution is our national compass.
But at this critical moment, clouded by the fog of President Trump’s misconduct, the Senate majority has lost its way… no longer guided by the Constitution.
In order to regain our moral bearings, stay true to our core values, and navigate a better path forward, we must hold President Trump accountable.
The President was wrong to invite foreign interference in our democracy. He was wrong to try and stonewall the investigation.
And he is wrong if he thinks he is above the law.