February 04, 2020
Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) delivered the following remarks on the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump:
Video of the remarks is available here.
“The decision to remove a president at any point in their term – but particularly nine months before an election – is not something we should take lightly.
Impeachment should not be a tool that Congress uses to settle policy or personal disagreements.
Instead, it should only be used if a president engages in misconduct so egregious that their conviction and removal is necessary and in the nation’s best interests.
Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist #65 that the Founders chose the Senate as “the most fit depository of this important trust” to make such a weighty decision.
They actually had faith that this body could rise above pure partisanship to conduct a fair trial and reach a just verdict.
In this case, however, we could not reach bipartisan agreement – not even on how to conduct the trial.
It’s a fact that, for the first time in this nation’s history, the Senate will render a verdict in an impeachment proceeding without hearing from a single witness – and without reviewing key documents that have been withheld by the executive branch.
As recently as last Friday, OMB admitted it continues to withhold key documents.
Let me provide an example. In a court filing, an OMB lawyer wrote that 24 White House emails were being withheld because they “reflect communications” by the president, vice president or top advisors on the “scope, duration and purpose of the hold on military assistance to Ukraine.”
Proceeding without such vital evidence is a real mistake.
I came to this trial with an open mind – to listen to the case presented by both sides and then to make a determination based on the facts.
After hearing the House managers’ case, it is clear that President Trump withheld U.S. aid in an effort to obtain Ukraine’s assistance to win re-election by asking that Ukraine launch and make public an investigation into Joe Biden, Mr. Trump’s political opponent.
The president’s legal team tried to argue that this didn’t happen.
But without seeing key documents and hearing from key fact witnesses such as John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney – top advisors with firsthand knowledge of the president’s conduct and motives – their arguments were not persuasive.
So after weighing the evidence available to us and considering the president’s pattern of similar misconduct, I will vote yes on the Articles of impeachment.
The House presented a compelling factual case.
Congress appropriated nearly $400 million in foreign aid to Ukraine, an ally engaged in a war with a major power, Russia.
It was signed into law by President Trump, who knew what he was signing and what it entailed.
President Trump also knew that Ukraine desperately needed the aid and America’s partnership in its efforts against a huge power, Russia.
He used that vulnerability to his advantage.
He privately demanded that, in exchange for United States aid and a White House meeting for Ukraine’s newly elected president, Ukraine’s leaders had to publicly announce an investigation that would damage his political rival, Vice President Joe Biden.
The president relayed those same demands to senior Ukrainian officials through both private and official government channels.
This was a clear quid pro quo. And it’s at the heart of the argument in the first Article of impeachment: abuse of power.
President Trump took this action to benefit himself personally and not for the good of the nation.
He violated the law by withholding appropriated funds in order to benefit himself and not our country.
President Trump did not withhold these funds because of concern about corruption generally.
Instead, he demanded just two specific investigations – Burisma and Biden – both intended to help him win re-election in 2020.
After hearing the House managers’ presentation, I think we’ve got to really ask ourselves, “How can this president deal with any foreign nation after compromising himself in such a fashion?”
“How can he be trusted to ensure that American elections are free from foreign interference?”
Other countries are watching.
After the president compromised himself this way with Ukraine, what’s to keep them – or any other country – from seeking benefits from the president in exchange for political or personal assistance?
So if the Senate refuses to correct this precedent now, the door to foreign political influence in our elections will be opened.
The House managers also presented a strong case on the second Article of impeachment: obstruction of Congress.
Here, the facts themselves are not in dispute. President Trump ordered his administration to withhold all documents and ordered Executive Branch witnesses not to testify before the House began its inquiry.
The president’s legal team countered that he has a right to defy congressional subpoenas as a matter of executive privilege.
But there is no precedent for their sweeping claim of absolute immunity from congressional oversight, particularly in the context of impeachment proceedings.
President Trump has taken the position that there are no checks on his presidential authority, effectively placing himself above the law.
I don’t believe the Senate can let this stand.
Unfortunately, the president’s actions are not isolated incidents. Both Articles of impeachment point to this.
The Articles note “these actions were consistent with President Trump’s previous invitations of foreign interference in U.S. elections.”
And with “previous efforts to undermine United States Government investigations into foreign interference in United States elections.”
During the 2016 campaign, President Trump welcomed Russia’s assistance to defeat his opponent Hillary Clinton.
The Mueller report detailed exactly how the Trump campaign sought to work with Russia to improve his electoral chances, including:
- providing internal campaign polling data to a Russian operative;
- inviting Russia to hack Hillary Clinton after Russia had already successfully hacked the Democratic National Committee; and
- obtaining information about upcoming releases of emails stolen by Russian agents, and weaponizing these stolen documents to harm Hillary Clinton.
When this conduct came under question, President Trump obstructed the investigation.
Special Counsel Mueller catalogued not one or two but 10 clear instances where President Trump sought to interfere in this investigation. This isn’t my view, this isn’t anyone else’s view. It’s a catalogue of a group of legal professionals indicating ten clear instances where Trump sought to interfere in the investigation.
This egregious pattern – of soliciting foreign interference and blocking any effort to investigate – continues to this day.
As recently as October, while the House impeachment inquiry was going on, President Trump stood on the White House lawn and asked China to investigate the Biden family.
This trial must do impartial justice, as is required by the oath we all took.
After listening to the arguments of both sides, it’s clear the House managers have proven their case.
The president’s conduct with respect to Ukraine has mirrored the rest of his presidency – and it’s all about what is best for President Trump.
If we vote to acquit and allow President Trump’s behavior, we will set a dangerous precedent – one that has the strong possibility of inflicting lasting damage on our country.
We will be saying that any president – Republican or Democrat- can leverage their office for personal political gain.
We will be inviting more foreign interference into our elections and saying it’s acceptable to use the presidency to solicit that assistance. His defense counsel admitted as much.
And we’ll be accepting the president’s extreme view that Article II of the Constitution gives him the right to do whatever he wants.
I’m convinced this is a rare instance where the Senate has no choice but to vote to convict and remove this president.
I reach this conclusion reluctantly and with deep concern; but with the belief that this action is necessary and cannot and should not be ignored.”
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