Two weeks ago, I took an oath to “do impartial justice” in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, President of the United States. This was an oath that I took seriously. It was a solemn promise to every Delawarean and every American that I would do everything I can to make sure the longest running experiment in democracy continues to serve as an example for the rest of the world and that the rights enshrined in our Constitution continue to be protected for each and every one of us.
Our Founders, despite their many disagreements, made the crucial choice that our Constitution would not lead to the creation an all-powerful king. Instead, the Constitution created three separate, co-equal branches of government—an executive, a legislature, and a judiciary. This ingenious system would ensure that a future president with the impulses of a king could be restrained by the other two branches. The Constitution also provided another backstop against abuses from a future president who committed “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” That constitutional backstop gives the House of Representatives the ‘sole power’ of impeachment, while the Senate has the “sole power” to conduct a trial in the event the House impeaches a president.
This week, my colleagues in the Senate and I arrived at the final chapter of the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump. It was not the trial that many of us had hoped for. We had hoped for a fair trial. The American people deserved a fair trial. A fair trial has witnesses. A fair trial has evidence. I don’t believe that history will be kind to those who have hid the truth from coming to light during this trial. The American people deserved to know the truth. As did this jury—the members of the United States Senate.
We had an obligation to consider the evidence presented by the House Managers and the president’s defense team relating to two Articles of Impeachment – Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. The House Managers presented a case that is the result of a three-month investigation, during which the House Intelligence Committee issues cores of subpoenas for documents and testimony. Donald Trump obstructed this process from the start. No president—not even President Nixon during Watergate—has ever issued an order to direct a witness to refuse to cooperate in an impeachment inquiry. As a result of this unprecedented obstruction, the Trump Administration did not provide a single document to the House of Representatives. Fortunately, though, 17 brave public servants—many of whom risked their careers—came forward to testify under oath. Here is what we learned from them.
Donald Trump used the powers of his office to pressure the government of Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election on his behalf and to smear his most-feared political opponent, Vice President Joe Biden. Donald Trump did this by illegally withholding funds appropriated by Congress to help an ally, Ukraine, in the midst of a hot war against Russia. Donald Trump did this by withholding a coveted White House meeting from the newly-elected President Zelensky of Ukraine. He illegally withheld the funds and the meeting until President Zelensky merely announced sham investigations involving Vice President Biden and a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election. And, when he got caught in the midst of this corrupt scheme, President Trump even called for other foreign nations to interfere on his behalf in the upcoming 2020 election.
While I believe the evidence against Donald Trump was overwhelming, like any criminal defendant, he was entitled to a robust defense. Many of us listened carefully to the president’s defense team over the course of this two week trial. Not once did the president’s defense team rebut the facts of this case, defend their client’s character, or call an eyewitness who could contradict the assertions made by witnesses who testified under oath. Not once did we hear the president’s defense team say, "Of course the President wouldn’t use the weight of the federal government to smear his political rival." Instead, we heard distractions, conspiracy theories and unfounded smears about Vice President Biden and his family. Instead, we heard a far-fetched legal theory that presidents cannot be impeached for soliciting foreign interference in our elections if they believe their own re-election is in the national interest.
Donald Trump violated his oath. He broke the law. He attempted to cheat in the 2020 election, and, when he got caught, left little doubt that he will cheat again. That is not the conduct we expect of our president. That is the conduct of someone who believes that he is above the law. Donald Trump is our president, not our king.
This week, my Democratic colleagues and I chose to preserve and protect our Constitution by voting to convict Donald J. Trump on both articles of impeachment and remove him from office. We were not alone. My friend, Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, joined us in defending our constitution and honoring our sacred obligation to do impartial justice. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ And Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But Conscience asks the question ‘Is it right?’” It was neither the safe, nor politic, nor popular choice – but Senator Romney voted for what he knew was right.
As he left the Constitutional Convention in 1787, a group of citizens approached Benjamin Franklin and asked, “What do we have? A monarchy or a republic?” Franklin answered, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
This week, I posed the same questions to my colleagues. “What do we have? A monarchy or a republic?”
I leave you with my answer. We have a Republic, and this week I voted to keep it.