MR/MADAM PRESIDENT, I rise today to speak on the trial of President Trump.
After information from more than a dozen witnesses, over a hundred questions and days of oral arguments, I believe the House failed to prove its case for the two articles of impeachment. The House’s story relies on too much speculation, guessing games and repetition. It fails to hold up under scrutiny. The House claims to have proven its case, but insists on more evidence. It was the House’s responsibility to ensure it had developed a complete record of the evidence it needed to make its case and it is not up to the Senate to start the process over again.
There were contradictions in the House’s case from the very beginning. The House counted on repetition to make its claims seem true, but often didn’t provide the underlying evidence. For example, the House managers relied on telephone records for timing, but speculated on the content of the calls.
The House managers claimed the president wanted to influence an election, but it is difficult to see how the House’s rush to bring this case in such a haphazard manner is nothing more than an attempt to influence the 2020 election. The House managers asked the Senate to do additional witnesses in one week, which could mean the Senate would essentially have to start the trial all over.
I not only can’t call their efforts adequate, I have to say they have been entirely inadequate. Consequently, I did not vote for more witnesses or more evidence and will vote to acquit the president on both counts.
I hope we can learn from everything we do – especially in regard to impeachment.
The animosity toward President Trump is unprecedented, and I believe it is the reason we have ended up where we are today. I believe we should give each newly-elected president a chance to show what he or she can do. We should provide them the opportunity to prove themselves and demonstrate our faith in our country and its leadership.
We have to give the president an opportunity to lead — or even to fail. Unfortunately, President Trump was promised an impeachment from the day he was elected — before he even took his oath of office. On the day of his inauguration, before any official act, there were riots where, and I quote from the New York Times, “protesters threw rocks and bricks at police officers, set a car on fire and shattered storefront windows.” I have never seen that kind of conduct before stemming from the result of our democratic process. I hope to never see it again.
The obstruction continued as President Trump’s nominations were held up in an unprecedented way. This obstruction kept the new president from getting his key people in place. The few nominations approved had to work with career or hold-over staff from the previous administration. We have read in news articles that some of those staffers not only disliked their new bosses, but they tried to actively undercut their policies. Sometimes they even delayed or used inaction or gave adverse advice. These types of tactics were used to put blame on their boss, and on President Trump — and that ultimately hurt our country, too.
Again, almost immediately after the election came the call for investigations, ending with the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. This investigation went on for almost two years. When the Mueller investigation didn’t yield the desired results, the president’s detractors returned to the continuing cry for an impeachment. The volume and pitch increased even as the 2020 election got closer.
Eventually, the House of Representatives found its latest accusation. Yet, not willing to conduct a thorough impeachment investigation and wanting to reach a foregone conclusion as the election year approached, the House of Representatives hurried its investigation so it would be done before Christmas, and the Senate would be forced to address these articles as a new year started. Ironically, after all that rushing and taking shortcuts, the House delayed sending the articles to the Senate until the new year. All of this was just the latest example of the efforts to block President Trump’s agenda.
I have now served in two presidential impeachment trials, one during my first term and this one in my last. I have never underestimated the responsibility of the task at hand or forgotten the oaths I took to uphold the Constitution. There are few duties senators will face as grave as deciding the fate of the President of the United States, but just like 21 years ago, this decision is about country, not politics. These experiences have helped refine my views, which I will now share.
Our forefathers did well setting the trial in the Senate where it takes a 2/3 majority, currently 67 votes, to convict. They could see the difficulty it would bring to the nation if impeachment could easily be convicted by a slight majority. Even though it’s not the law, I would counsel the House not to impeach without at least a 3/5 vote in their own body — and that should include some number from the minority party.
I’ve also come to believe that impeachment should be primarily about a criminal activity. Impeachment is inherently undemocratic because it reverses an election, so in election years, the bar for considering impeachment and removal goes even higher. Ultimately, the American people should and will have the final say.
The House of Representatives must also be sure to complete its investigation. It shouldn’t send the Senate impeachment charges and then expect the Senate to continue gathering more evidence. The House should subpoena witnesses and deal with defense claims such as privilege, even if that means going through the judicial process rather than placing such a burden on the Senate.
The House cannot simply rely on repetition of possibilities of violations, no matter how many times stated, to make their accusations true. A complete investigation means the investigators don’t rush to judgment, don’t speculate about the content of calls, and don’t rely on repetition of accusations about the content of such calls as a substitute for seeking the truth.
During the initial investigation, witnesses should have already been deposed by both sides before it comes to the Senate. The president’s counsel must be allowed to cross examine all persons deposed by the House. Then, and only then, can any of the witnesses be called to testify at the Senate trial. The House investigation has to be complete.
Finally, I would call for our outside institutions to also think about how they contribute to the well-being of our country. I have often said that conflict sells. It might even increase sales to consumers of news for both parties, but I fear that we are all treating this like a sport, speculating which team will win and which will lose. I suspect that some venomous statements about this process have ended some friendships and strained some families. In the end, if we lose faith in our institutions, our friends and our families, we will all lose.
We desperately need more civility. That’s simply being nice to each other. My Mom said, “Bad behavior is inexcusable.” It violates the Golden Rule as revised by my Mom, “Do what’s right. Do your best. Treat others as THEY wish to be treated.” One of the first movies I saw was the now-ancient animated picture, Bambi. I am reminded of the little rabbit saying, “My Mom always says, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” I believe we all agree on at least 80 percent of most issues, but the trend seems to be shifting to concentrate on the other 20 percent we don’t agree on. That 20 percent causes divisiveness, opposition, venomous harsh words and anger.
Too often it feels like our nation is only becoming more divided, more hostile. I do not believe that our country will ever be able to successfully tackle our looming problems if we continue down this road. As we move forward from this chapter in our nation’s history, I hope that we will focus more on our shared goals that can help our nation, and not the issues that drive us apart.