Feb 4, 2020
Transcript: Trump Impeachment Trial Tuesday February 4, 2020 Key Moments
The Donald Trump Impeachment Trial continued on February 4, 2020, moving in the direction of an acquittal of the president’s actions. Senators spent the day explaining their votes. Read the transcripts of the key moments from today’s trial.
Key Moment 1
Chuck Schumer: (00:00)
Mr. President there, the Majority Leader can come up on the floor and repeat his talking points, but there are some salient points that are irrefutable. The first, this is the first impeachment trial of a President or a trial, impeachment trial, of anybody else that was completed that has no witnesses and no documents.
Chuck Schumer: (00:19)
The American people are just amazed that our Republican friends would not even ask for witnesses and documents. I thought the house did a very good job. I thought they made a compelling case, but even if you didn’t, the idea that that means you shouldn’t have witnesses and documents, when we’re doing something as August, as important, as an impeachment trial, fails the laugh test. It makes people believe correctly in my judgment, that the administration, it’s top people and Senate Republicans are all hiding the truth. They’re afraid of the truth.
Chuck Schumer: (00:55)
Second, the charges are extremely serious. To interfere in an election, to blackmail a foreign country to interfere in our elections, gets at the very core of what our democracy is about. If Americans believe that they don’t determine who is President, who’s governor, who is Senator, but some foreign potentate, out of reach of any law enforcement, can jaundice our elections. That’s the beginning of end of democracy.
Chuck Schumer: (01:27)
So it’s a serious charge. The Republicans refused to get the evidence, because they were afraid of what it would show, and that’s all that needs to be said. I yield the floor. Note the absence of a quorum.
Key Moment 2
Mitch McConnell: (00:01)
Mr. President, these past weeks the Senate has grappled with this grave subject as we ever consider request from a majority in the House to remove the president.
Mitch McConnell: (00:14)
The framers took impeachment extremely seriously, but they harbored no illusions that these trials would always begin for the right reasons. Alexander Hamilton warned the demon of faction would extend his sceptre over the House of Representatives at certain seasons. He warned that an intemperate or designing majority in the House might misuse impeachment as a weapon of ordinary politics rather than an emergency tool of last resort.
Mitch McConnell: (00:50)
The framers knew impeachment might begin with overheated passions and short term factionalism, but they knew those things could not get the final say, so they placed the ultimate judgment, not in the fractures, lower chamber, but in the sober and stable center. They wanted impeachment trials to be fair to both sides. They wanted them to be timely, avoiding the procrastinated determination of the charges. They wanted us to take a deep breath and decide which outcome would reflect the facts, protect our institutions, and advance the common good.
Mitch McConnell: (01:34)
They called the Senate quote, “The most fit depository of this important trust.” Tomorrow we’ll know whether that trust was well-placed. The drive to impeach president Trump did not begin with the allegations before us.
Mitch McConnell: (01:51)
Here was a reporting on April of 2016. This is before the president was the nominee. Donald Trump isn’t even the Republican nominee yet, but impeachment is already on the lips of pundits, newspaper, editorials, constitutional scholars, and even a few members of Congress.
Mitch McConnell: (02:12)
It was the Washington Post headline minutes after president Trump’s inauguration. “The campaign to impeach president Trump has begun,” the Washington post said. The articles of impeachment before us were not even the first ones House Democrats introduced. This was a go around number. This was a go around number of roughly seven.
Mitch McConnell: (02:39)
Those previously alleged high crimes and misdemeanors Mr. President included things like being impolite to the press and to professional athletes. It insults the intelligence of the American people to pretend this was a solemn process, reluctantly begun because of withheld foreign aid. No. Washington Democrats position on this project has been clear literally for years. Their position was obvious when they openly rooted for the Mueller investigation to tear our country apart and we’re disappointed. Disappointed when the facts proved otherwise.
Mitch McConnell: (03:21)
It was obvious when they sought to impeach the president over and over. Here’s their real position, Mr. President, Washington Democrats think president Donald Trump committed a high crime or misdemeanor the moment, the moment he defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
Mitch McConnell: (03:45)
That is the original sin of this presidency. That he won and they lost. Ever since, the nation has suffered through a grinding campaign against our norms and institutions from the same people who keep shouting that our norms and institutions need defending.
Mitch McConnell: (04:06)
A campaign to degrade our democracy and legitimatize our elections from the same people who shout that confidence in our democracy must be Parabon.
Mitch McConnell: (04:20)
We’ve watched a major American political party adopt the following absurd proposition. We think this president is a bull in a China shop, so we’re going to drive a bulldozer through the China shop to get rid of it.
Mitch McConnell: (04:38)
This fever led to the most rushed, least fair and least thorough presidential impeachment inquiry in American history. The House inquiry under president Nixon spent many months. The special prosecutor’s investigation added many more months. With president Clinton, the independent counsel worked literally for years.
Mitch McConnell: (05:03)
It takes time to find facts. It takes time to litigate executive privilege, which happened in both those investigations. Litigating privileged questions is a normal step that investigators or both parties understood was their responsibility. But this time, no lengthy investigation, no serious inquiry, the House abandoned its own subpoenas. They had an arbitrary political deadline to meet. They had to impeach by Christmas. They had to impeach by Christmas. So in December, the House Democrats realized the framers nightmare, a purely partisan majority approved two articles of impeachment over bipartisan opposition. And after the speaker of the House delayed for a month in a futile effort to dictate Senate process to senators, the articles finally arrived over here in the Senate.
Mitch McConnell: (06:04)
Over the course of the trial senators, senators have heard sworn video testimony from 13 witnesses, over 193 video clips, we have entered more than 28,000 pages of documents into evidence, including 17 depositions and our members asked 180 questions.
Mitch McConnell: (06:30)
In contrast to the House proceedings, our trial gave both sides a fair platform. Our process tracked with the structure that senators adopted for the Clinton trial 20 years ago. Just as Democrats, such as the current democratic leader and then Senator Joe Biden argued at length in 1999 we recognize that Senate traditions impose no obligation, no obligation to hear new live witness testimony if it is not necessary to decide the case, if it is not necessary to decide the case. Let me emphasize the House managers themselves said over and over that additional testimony was not necessary to prove their case. They claimed dozens of times that their existing case was quote, “overwhelming and in controvertible.” That was the House managers saying their evidence was overwhelming and in controvertible at the same time they were arguing for more witnesses.
Mitch McConnell: (07:41)
But in reality, both of the House accusations are constitutionally incoherent. The obstruction of Congress charge is absurd and dangerous. House Democrats argued that anytime the speaker invokes the House sole power of impeachment, the president must do whatever the House demands. No questions asked. Invoking executive branch privileges and immunities and response to House subpoenas becomes an impeachable offense. It’s out.
Mitch McConnell: (08:12)
Here’s how chairman should I put it back in October. Quote, “Any action, any action that forces us to litigate or have to consider, litigation will be considered further evidence of obstruction of justice.” That Mr. President is nonsense impeachment. That is nonsense.
Mitch McConnell: (08:36)
Impeachment is not some magical constitutional trump card that melts away the separations between the branches of government. The framers did not leave the House a secret constitutional steamroller that everyone somehow overlooked for 230 years. When Congress subpoenas executive branch officials with questions or privilege, the two sides either reach an accommodation or they go to court. That’s the way it works.
Mitch McConnell: (09:07)
So, can you imagine if the shoe were on the other foot? How would Democrats and the press have responded if House Republicans had told president Obama, we don’t want to litigate our subpoenas over fast and furious. So if you would make us set foot in court, we’ll just impeach you. We’ll just impeach you. Of course, that’s not what happened. The Republican House litigated it subpoenas for years until they prevailed. So much for obstruction of Congress.
Mitch McConnell: (09:43)
The abuse of power charge is just as unpersuasive and dangerous. By passing that article, House Democrats gave into a temptation that every previous House has resisted. They impeached a president without even alleging a crime known to our laws.
Mitch McConnell: (10:08)
Now, Mr. President, I do not subscribe to the legal theory that impeachment requires a violation of a criminal statute, but there are powerful reasons why for 230 years every presidential impeachment did in fact allege a criminal violation.
Mitch McConnell: (10:29)
The farmers express explicitly rejected impeachment for mal administration, a general charge under English law that basically encompassed bad management, a sort of general vote of no competence except in the most extreme circumstances, except for acts that overwhelmingly shocked the national conscience. The framers decided presidents must serve at the pleasure of the electorate, the electorate, and not at the pleasure of House majorities. As Hamilton wrote, “It is one thing to be subordinate to the laws and another to be dependent, dependent on the legislative body.”
Mitch McConnell: (11:13)
So, House Democrats sailed into the new and dangerous waters, the first impeachment unbound by the criminal law. Any House that felt it needed to take this radical step owed the country the most fair and pain shaking process, the most rigorous investigation, the most bipartisan effort. Instead, we’ve got the opposite, the exact opposite.
Mitch McConnell: (11:40)
The House managers argued that the president could not have been acting in the national interest because he acted inconsistently with their own conception of the national interest. Let me say that again. The House managers were basically arguing that the president could not have been acting in the national interest because he acted inconsistently with their conception of the national interest. A conception shared by some of the president’s subordinates as well.
Mitch McConnell: (12:09)
This does not even approach a case for the first presidential removal in American history. Doesn’t even approach it. Such an act cannot rest alone on the exercise of a constitutional power, combined with concerns about whether the president’s motivations were public or personal, and a disagreement over whether the exercise of the power was in the national interest. The framers gave our nation an ultimate tool for evaluating the president’s character and policy decisions. They’re called elections. They’re called elections.
Mitch McConnell: (12:52)
If Washington Democrats have a case to make against the president’s re-election, they should go out and make it. Let them try to do what they’ve failed to do three years ago. And so the American people, on their vision, for the country. I can certainly see why given president Trump’s remarkable achievements over the past three years, Democrats might feel a bit uneasy about defeating him at the ballot box, but they don’t get to rip the choice away from the voters just because they’re afraid they might lose again. They don’t get to strike president Trump’s name from the ballot just because as one House Democrat put it quote, “I’m concerned that if we don’t impeach him, he’ll get reelected.” The impeachment power exists for a reason.
Mitch McConnell: (13:47)
It is no nullity, but invoking it on a partisan whim to settle three year old political scores does not honor the framers design. It insults the framer’s design. Frankly, it’s hard to believe that House Democrats ever really thought this reckless and precedent breaking process would yield 67 votes to cross the Rubicon. Was their vision so clouded by partisanship that they really believed, they really believed this would be anywhere near enough for the first presidential removal in American history? Or was success beside the point? Was this all an effort to hijack our institutions for a month long political rally?
Mitch McConnell: (14:43)
Either way, Mr. President, the demon of faction has been on full display, but now it is time for him, the demon, to exit the stage. We have indeed witnessed an abuse of power. A grave abuse of power by just the kind of House majority that the framers warned us about.
Mitch McConnell: (15:09)
So tomorrow, the Senate must do what we were created to do. We’ve done our duty, we considered all the arguments. We’ve studied the quote “mountain of evidence” end quote. And tomorrow we will vote.
Mitch McConnell: (15:31)
We must vote to reject the House abusive power. Vote to protect our institutions. Vote to reject new precedence that would reduce the framers designed to rubble. Vote to keep factional fever from boiling over and scorching our Republic. I urge every one of our colleagues to cast the vote, the facts, the evidence, the constitution, and the common good clearly required. Vote to acquit the president of these chargers.
Key Moment 3
Rand Paul: (00:00)
The great irony of the last several weeks in the impeachment trial is that the Democrats accused the president of using his governmental office to go after his political opponent. The irony is they then used the impeachment process to go after their political opponent. In fact, as you look at the way it unfolded, they admitted as much. As the impeachment proceedings unfolded, they said, “We didn’t have time for witnesses. We had to get it done before Christmas, because we wanted it done and ready to go for the election. We had to get it done. The entire process needed to be completed before the election.” They didn’t have time for the process, they didn’t have time for due process, they didn’t have time for the president to call his own witnesses, or cross examine their witnesses. The great irony is they did exactly what they accused the president of. They use the government, and the government’s process, to go after their political opponent.
Rand Paul: (01:01)
What is the evidence that is partisan? They didn’t convince one Republican. Not one elected Republican decided that any of their arguments were valid, or that the president should be impeached. They made it into a sham, they made it into a political process because they didn’t like the results of the election. When did this start? Did the impeachment start with a phone call to the Ukrainian president? No, the impeachment and the attacks on the president started six months before he was elected. We had something truly devastating to our Republic happen. We had for the first time in our history, a secret court decided to investigate a campaign. At the time, when those of us who criticized this secret court for spying on the Trump campaign, they said, “Oh, it’s just a conspiracy theory. None of this is happening. There is no, there, there.”
Rand Paul: (01:55)
But now that we’ve investigated it, guess what? The Pfizer court admits they were lied to. The FBI is now been proven to have lied 17 times. We’ve got a half a dozen people at the top level of our intelligence community who have admitted to having extreme bias. You got Peter Strzok and Lisa Page talking about taking down the president, having an insurance policy against him succeeding and becoming the president. You’ve got McCabe, you’ve got Comey, you got Clapper. You remember James Clapper, the one who came to the Senate and when asked by Senator Wyden, “Are you storing? Are you gathering information from Americans by the millions and storing it on government computers?” James Clapper said, “No.” He lied to Congress. Nobody chose to impeach him, but he lied to Congress and committed a felony. Is he in jail? No, he’s making millions of dollars as a contributor on television now, using and pedaling his national security influence for dollars after having committed a felony and lying to us.
Rand Paul: (03:07)
These are the people who plotted to bring the president down. These are the people who continue to plot to bring the president down. Before all of this started though, I was a critic of the secret courts, I was a critic of Pfizer. I was a critic of them abusing American civil liberties. I was a critic of them invading our privacy, recording the length of our phone calls, who we talk to, sometimes recording conversations. All of this done supposedly to go after terrorists, but Americans by the millions are caught up in this web. But now for the first time, it’s not just American civil liberties that are being abused by our intelligence agencies, it’s an entire presidential campaign, and it could go either way. This is why you want to limit power. Men are not angels, and that’s why we put restrictions on government. We need more restrictions now. We can’t allow secret courts to investigate campaigns.
Rand Paul: (04:07)
This started before the election. It went on for the last three years through the Mueller investigation. They thought they had the president dead to rights and they’d bring him down through this investigation. So initially, the spying didn’t work, the Mueller investigation didn’t work. They went seamlessly into the impeachment. The question for the American public is now, will they go on? Are they going to immediately start up hearings again in the house, it’ll be partisan hearings again? I suspect they will. They’ve had their day in the sun and they loved it, and I think they’re going to keep doing it time and time and time again.
Key Moment 4
Ted Cruz: (00:00)
Madam President, tomorrow afternoon, the Senate will vote to acquit President Trump in these impeachment proceedings. That’s the right thing to do. That is the decision that comports with both the facts and the law. These impeachment proceedings began in the House of Representatives in a thoroughly partisan affair, driven by House Democrats, without allowing the president to participate in cross-examining witnesses and calling defense witnesses. When the matter came to the Senate, the Senate was obligated to do much better. We had an obligation under the Constitution to conduct a fair trial, and that’s what the Senate has done. Over the course of the last two weeks, we have heard hour, upon hour, upon hour of argument. The House proceeding heard testimony from 18 different witnesses.
Ted Cruz: (01:06)
The Senate saw 193 video clips of witness testimony presented here on the Senate floor. The Senate posed 180 separate questions from senators to the House managers or the White House defense team. And within the record, were over 28,000 pages of documents, including the single most important evidence in this case, which is the actual transcript of the conversation at issue between President Trump and the president of Ukraine. The Trump Administration, to the astonishment of everyone, declassified that transcript and released it to the world so that we can read precisely what was said in that conversation. The reason that acquittal is the right decision is because the House managers failed to prove their case. They failed to demonstrate that they satisfied the constitutional standard of high crimes and misdemeanors. The text of the Constitution provides that a president may be impeached for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. The House managers fell woefully short of that standard. Indeed, in the articles of impeachment they sent over here, they don’t allege any crime whatsoever. They don’t even allege a single federal law that the president violated.
Ted Cruz: (02:40)
An awful lot of Americans looking at these proceedings have heard a lot of noise, have heard a lot of screaming, but are left wondering, what was this all about? If you examine the substance, there are two things that the House managers alleged the president did wrong. One, they alleged that the president wrongfully delayed aid to Ukraine. And two, they allege that the president wrongfully asked for an investigation into a political rival. Both of those are legitimate ends. Let me address them one at a time because there is a deep irony in the argument of the House managers. Both of those objectives are consistent with law, are permissible and legal, and both of those objectives have been done by any measure, substantially worse, by the preceding administration, by the Obama Administration. Let’s take delaying aid to Ukraine. Madam President, and I am a big believer in America standing with Ukraine. Indeed, I traveled with Ukraine. I went to the Maidan Square and stood with protestors who had been shot down by their government, as the protestors stood for freedom.
Ted Cruz: (03:57)
I believe military aid to Ukraine is a good thing. And it is true that the Trump Administration temporarily delayed aid to Ukraine. That is their right to do so. Presidents have delayed foreign aid before the Trump Administration has done so, with regard to a number of countries. The Obama Administration did so before that, previous administrations have done so. But we heard hour upon hour of the House managers trying to establish the proposition that aid to Ukraine was delayed when President Trump admits aid to Ukraine was delayed. There’s no dispute about it. And we heard testimony about how Ukrainians died because aid was delayed. Here’s the irony, Madam President, if you support aid to Ukraine, as I do, military aid to Ukraine as they stand up to Russia, there is no dispute whatsoever that for the entirety of his presidency, President Obama refused to give lethal military aid, defensive aid to Ukraine, despite the fact that I and many other members of this body called on President Obama to give aid to Ukraine.
Ted Cruz: (05:07)
Madam President, I remember when we all went to the floor of the House of Representatives to hear a speech to a joint session of Congress from President Poroshenko, then the president of Ukraine. Where the president of Ukraine called out the Obama Administration because they were sending blankets and MREs, meals, and President Poroshenko rightly said, “You can’t fight a Russian tank with a blanket.” So if the House managers are right that there is something improper about delaying military aid, the Obama Administration did so for the entirety of the administration. And what did President Trump do? He did something Obama never did. He provided lethal defensive military aid, javelin missiles, that can take out Russian tanks.
Ted Cruz: (05:58)
The first ground they allege of delaying aid, is legal and permissible, and by any measure, the Trump Administration’s record on it is much, much better than the Obama Administration. How about the second ground? Directing an investigation into your political rival. Madam President, the most important legal question in this proceeding, the question that resolves this proceeding, is does a president have the constitutional authority to investigate credible allegations of corruption? The House managers built their case on the proposition that seeking an investigation into Burisma, the corrupt Ukrainian natural gas company, and Joe Biden and Hunter Biden, seeking any investigation into whether there was corruption there, was in the words that the House managers, “Baseless, a sham, and utterly without merit.” In their opening arguments, the House managers spent over two hours trying to make that case. And Madam President, I will say on the face of it, that proposition is objectively absurd. And the White House legal defense team laid out, in considerable detail, that there was very substantial evidence of corruption.
Ted Cruz: (07:18)
Burisma is a company that was built on corruption. The oligarch who started Burisma, Mr. Zlochevsky, was the sitting energy minister in Ukraine, and he amassed his billions by, as the sitting energy minister, giving gas licenses to his own company that he was heading. That’s where Burisma made their money. It was a company built on corruption from day one. I think it’s worth pausing and examining the timeline of what occurred, because remember, the House manager’s case is baseless and a sham to even investigate corruption. In early 2014, Vice President Joe Biden was named the point person for the Obama Administration on Ukraine. On April 13th of 2014, Devon Archer, business partners with Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden, joined the board of Burisma, began being paid $1 million a year.
Ted Cruz: (08:20)
April 28th, Britain’s Security Fraud Bureau freezes $23 million in accounts controlled by Zlochevsky, the oligarch who owned Burisma. And then just two weeks later, on May 12th, Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden, is named to the board and paid $1 million a year, despite having no background in oil and gas and no discernible background in Ukraine. Hunter Biden gets paid $1 million a year, and Joe Biden actively, aggressively, vigorously leads the Obama Administration’s policies on Ukraine. Now the House managers were asked in questioning, “What exactly did Hunter Biden do for his million dollars a year?” They refuse to answer that. That is a perfectly reasonable question to ask if you’re investigating corruption. Joe Biden is seen on video, not just admitting but bragging that he told the president of Ukraine he would personally block $1 billion in foreign aid loan guarantees unless Ukraine fired the prosecutor that was investigating Burisma, the company paying his son $1 million a year. And as Joe Biden bragged on that video, “Well son of a bitch, they fired him.” Now that, on its face, raises significant issues of potential corruption.
Ted Cruz: (09:50)
We don’t know for sure if there was in fact corruption, but when President Trump asked that it be investigated to get to the bottom of what happened, the president has the authority to investigate corruption. And there was more than sufficient basis to do so. And of course, the House managers are right that it is somehow illegitimate, it is somehow inappropriate, it is in fact, impeachable to seek the investigation of your political rival. We know for a fact that the Obama Administration not only sought the investigation, but aggressively led an investigation, marred by abuse of power, going after then candidate Trump including wiretaps, including fraudulently obtained court warrants from the FISA court.
Ted Cruz: (10:43)
Madam President, impeachment is an extraordinary remedy. It’s not designed for when you disagree. It’s not designed for when you have political differences or policy differences. It’s designed for when a president crosses the constitutional threshold. On February 6th, 1974, the Democratic Judiciary Committee chairman Peter Rodino, Democrat from New Jersey, who led the impeachment inquiry into Richard Nixon, told his colleagues, quote, “Whatever the result, whatever we learn or conclude, let us now proceed with such care, and decency, and thoroughness, and honor that the vast majority of the American people and their children after them will say, ‘This was the right course, there was no other way.'”
Ted Cruz: (11:31)
That was the standard that led to an overwhelming bipartisan vote to open the impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon. That standard was not remotely followed by the House managers. This was a partisan impeachment, and we are right now, in an election year. The voters are voting, and it is up to the voters to decide which policies they want to continue. The House managers have abused the constitutional process by trying to use impeachment to settle a partisan score that is divisive to the country. And I’m proud that this body will vote, I hope, in a bipartisan way, to reject these articles of impeachment, to acquit the president, and to find President Trump not guilty of the articles the House has sent over. I yield the floor.
Key Moment 5
Susan Collins: (00:01)
While I do not believe that the conviction of a president requires a criminal act, the high bar for removal from office, is perhaps even higher when the impeachment is for a difficult to define non-criminal act. In any event, the House did little to support its assertion in Article One that the president will remain a threat to national security and the constitution if allowed to remain in office. As I concluded in the impeachment trial of President Clinton, I do not believe that the House has met its burden of showing that the president’s conduct, however flawed, warrants the extreme step of immediate removal from office. Nor does the record support the assertion by the House managers, that the president must not remain in office one moment longer. The fact that the House delayed transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate for 33 days, undercuts this argument. For all of the reasons I have discussed, I will vote to acquit on Article One.
Key Moment 6
R. Blumenthal: (00:01)
And president as we think back over these last weeks when we have sat together on the floor considering evidence and sitting in judgment as jurors and judges spending countless hours deliberating, I often think about what I will remember from these days on a very personal level, it has been an historic event. But in some ways the human element strikes me as the most memorable. I will remember vividly the bravery of dedicated public servant who had everything to lose and nothing to gain by telling the American people the truth about Donald Trump and his scheme to corruptly use power for his personal benefit. Their courage, their grace under pressure, their dignity and unshakable honesty should be a model for all of us.
R. Blumenthal: (01:19)
I will remember for example, Colonel Alexander Vindon, whose video appeared before us, a man who was brought to the United States at the age of three and grew to love this country so much that he put his life at risk in combat and then his career at risk by coming before the Congress. I’ll remember Fiona Hill, daughter of a coal miner and nurse who proceeded to get a PhD swear an oath to this country serving in both Republican and Democratic administrations, warning us not to pedal the “fictional narrative” perpetrated and propagated as she said, and I’m quoting by the Russian security services themselves about this supposed Ukrainian effort to meddle in our election.
R. Blumenthal: (02:25)
I will remember very vividly ambassador William Taylor a West Point graduate decorated Vietnam war veteran who testified that he thought it was “crazy” to “withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign”. And I will remember the whistleblower who came forward to express shock and alarm that the president of United States would attempt to extort a vulnerable fledgling democracy to help him cheat in the next election in exchange for the foreign military aid they so desperately need it to fight their adversary Russia, our adversary, Russia, attacking and killing their young men and women. I have met some of those young men and women who came to Connecticut to the Burn Center at Bridgeport Hospital so badly injured they could barely talk.
R. Blumenthal: (03:45)
And the stories of their suffering and hardship came back to me as I sat on the floor here and their courage and their bravery and strength also will stay with me. I’ll remember the moment that we raised our hands took an oath to be impartial. All hundred of us, 99 at the same time in a historic moment when the weight of that responsibility shook me like a rock. And I will remember also the shame and sadness that I felt when this body supposedly the greatest deliberative body in the history of the world voted to close its eyes to put on blinders to evidence, witnesses and documents firsthand knowledge, eyes and ears on the president. Black and white documents don’t lie that were necessary to understand the complete story and give the American people the complete truth.
R. Blumenthal: (04:58)
That moment unfortunately, a moment of dismay and disappointment will stay with me as well after aspiring for so long to be part of this body which I respected and revered, so utterly failing the American people at this moment of crisis. And I will remember the audible gasps, some laughs, raised eyebrows in this chamber when professor Alan Dershowitz made the incredible, shocking argument that a president who believes that his own reelection serves the public interests can do anything he wants and his actions are not impeachable.
R. Blumenthal: (06:03)
The implications of that argument for the future of our democracy are simply indescribable. And I’ve been a traveler, I’ve spent most of my career in and out of the courtroom, so I can argue the legalities, but I’m not here to rehash the legal arguments because culpability here seems pretty clear to me. The president solicited a bribe when he sought a personal benefit in investigation of his political opponent, a smear of his rival in exchange for an official act. In fact, two official acts, the release of military funding for an ally and a white house meeting in return for that personal benefit. Those actions are a violation of section 201, 18 United States code today.
R. Blumenthal: (07:10)
They were a violation of criminal law at the time of the framers and that’s why they put it in the constitution, bribery and treason specifically mentioned. Bribery is included as an abuse of power as it was when judge Proteus was convicted and impeach and many of the members of this chamber voted to impeach him although bribery was never mentioned in the articles charging him with abuse of power. The idea that bribery or any crime has to be mentioned for there to be an abuse of power is clearly preposterous. The elements of bribery had been proved in my view, beyond reasonable doubt, and there is no excuse for that criminal conduct. I’m going to submit a detailed statement for the record that makes the legal case, but clearly bribery has been committed by this president.
R. Blumenthal: (08:18)
What strikes me, perhaps looking beyond the legalities as most telling here is the constant theme of secrecy. The fact that the president kept his reasons for withholding aid secret. Unlike other suspensions of aid to other countries like the Northern triangle in central America or Egypt where it was announced publicly and Congress was notified. Here, he kept it secret. He operated through his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani in secret, not through the state department, not through the department of justice. Despite all his claims of corruption and wrongdoing by Hunter or Joe Biden, he either never went to the department of justice or they declined to investigate because there was no there. There instead, he thought secretly the investigation of political rival through a foreign government targeting a U.S. Citizen secretly.
R. Blumenthal: (09:36)
His refusal to provide a single document to Congress allow a single witness to testify, keeping their testimony and that evidence secret concealing it is defiance of every subpoena in court effectively neutering has oversight authority, our oversight authority to check any of these abuses, all of it for the purpose of secrecy. His claim of absolute immunity, totally discredited and rejected by the courts. Because as the court said in [inaudible 00:10:14] case he is not a King, his claim of executive privilege as the reason for keeping that evidence secret. Well, he never really invoke executive privilege, but executive privilege cannot be invoked to conceal criminal conduct that fits within the crime fraud exception.
R. Blumenthal: (10:42)
And while the president’s lawyers argued before this body that the house should have gone to court to enforce those subpoenas instead of resorting to the remedy of impeachment they had then the audacity to simultaneously at exactly the same time argue in court that Congress cannot seek a judicial remedy to enforce subpoenas because it has the remedy of impeachment. No jurisdiction because of impeachment and at the same time, no access to evidence necessary for impeachment because supposedly you can go to court. This duplicity is absolutely stunning and I will say just again on a personal note, as a prosecutor, it’s a dead giveaway. He’s guilty regardless of what we do tomorrow, we know for sure in this great democracy the truth will come out. It always does. It’s just a question of when.
R. Blumenthal: (11:54)
It comes out about all of us at some point. And for this president, the truth is coming out in real time as we speak on this floor as we vote tomorrow. The revelations in New York times about what John Bolton has written in his book indicate the truth is going to come out in mid-March with John Bolton’s book, assuming the president doesn’t try to censor it and tie him up in court or exercise some prior restraint. It will come out in congressional investigations. When John Bolton and others testify, it will come out because there are courageous men and women like ambassador Taylor and Fiona Hill and Colonel Veneman and others who are willing to put country ahead of their personal careers.
R. Blumenthal: (13:03)
When my children grow up and they are pretty well grown, I hope they will be more like them than like the president and I never ever thought I would say that in the Senate of the United States, let alone anywhere. Because this president has shown that he will take advantage of every opportunity for self enrichment and self-aggrandizement, whether it’s violating the Emoluments Clause and I have sued him along with 199 of my colleagues on that issue. Making money from the presidency profiting and putting profit ahead of his official duties or seeking to smear a political rival and soliciting a bribe even if the aid went through and even if the investigation was never announced, it’s still a crime. Putting that kind of self benefit ahead of his duty to the country and our national security, the welfare and fight of an ally at the tip of the spear against a common adversary who is seeking to destroy Western democracies.
R. Blumenthal: (14:32)
He has someone who has said, show me the boundaries of the law and I’ll push them, and if I can successfully cross them, I will do it again and he will do it again, everyone in this chamber knows it. So as we make this momentous decision, I implore each of my colleagues to think about the gravity of what we will do if we fail to convict this, present the message that we send to countries struggling to overcome corruption. Because America is more than just a country. America is an idea and an ideal. When we implore them to fight corruption, our credibility is shredded when we condone it at home. The framers in their wisdom knew that elections every four years were an inadequate check against any president who corruptly abuses, power for personal gain. And this situation and this president is exactly what they feared when our young infant country was struggling to avoid foreign interference in our election, it was their worst nightmare. Foreign interference, the threat of foreign meddling. Exactly what this president has invited.
R. Blumenthal: (16:22)
It was delegate William Davy of North Carolina who said, “If he be not impeachable whilst in office he will spare no efforts or means whatever to get himself re-elected. It was precisely cheating in a future election. Foreign interference in our domestic affair that the framers establish impeachment to prevent. That’s why the remedy exists and that’s why we must use it now. History will judge us harshly if we fail in this historic challenge, history will haunt the colleagues who fail to meet this challenge, who lack the courage that was demonstrated by those heroes Taylor Veneman, Hill, Cooper, others and they will continue to serve our country and the truth will come out.
R. Blumenthal: (17:39)
The heroes of this dark era will be our independent judiciary and our free press. They will continue uncovering the truth. They will continue providing freedom of information material under the law. They will continue to protect civil rights and civil liberties. They will continue their vigilance even if we fail in ours, but we have this task now. History will sit in judgment of us and the future of our Republic will be in jeopardy if we fail tomorrow to do the right thing. Thank you Madam president, are you going to look for him?