But we agree on this: President Trump must be impeached by the House and removed from office, either by the Senate or at the ballot box on Nov. 3, 2020.
Based on Trump’s undisputed words alone, there can be no doubt that the president has met the standard for impeachment. While the framers were intentionally vague in not defining what was meant by “high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” the two key framers who interpreted this phrase — Alexander Hamilton and James Madison — agreed that a president should be removed from office for “the abuse or violation of some public trust.”
On July 25, Trump asked Ukraine’s president by telephone to open two investigations that would help him in the 2020 presidential elections — one, on the alleged complicity of the Democrats in the email-hacking scandal in the 2016 election; and the second, to dig up dirt on a 2020 presidential hopeful, former vice president Joe Biden, and his son Hunter. This request was clearly made for the president’s own personal, political benefit. Thus, the violation of the public trust is established. (It is also a federal crime to solicit a foreign government to attempt to influence and corrupt a U.S. presidential election.)
The House does not need to prove a “quid pro quo” — in this case, that Trump also conditioned the provision of U.S. military aid to Ukraine on Kyiv’s willingness to conduct these two investigations. However, Trump’s own words, as summarized in the rough transcript of his call, established that he intended such a quid pro quo, and there is corroborating evidence to back that up.
On this, many people agree. But we believe the Senate should proceed to a trial only if at least 20 Republican senators announce beforehand that they are open-minded about removing Trump from office.
This is not a trivial pursuit. Asking for a juror to commit to be open-minded before the evidence is presented by prosecutors and then tested by defense lawyers is entirely proper and usual — it is what potential jurors are asked to commit to every day when they are subjected to jury selection before a trial. It is a minimum standard of fairness we seek from those who would judge us. It is not unreasonable to ask this of all senators, who are in effect, the jurors in this trial.
If such public announcements of open-mindedness by at least 20 Republican jurors do not occur within a month or so after the House impeachment resolution, then we suggest a Senate trial would be a waste of time and unwise.
The disadvantage to such a move might seem unfair to Trump, as it would not present him with an opportunity to answer the charges leveled against him by the House. For this reason, we would propose that the president be given the option of having a full Senate trial if he wants one.
But our instinct is that, if given a choice, Trump would say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” He will know that second presentation (and the larger TV audience that goes with it) of the undeniable evidence that he asked a foreign government leader to intervene to help him in the 2020 presidential election won’t help him politically.
Our hunch is that most Americans would prefer to avoid wasting time during a crucial presidential election. They would rather focus on the important issues facing the country.
We still believe a House impeachment vote must occur. It is needed to establish an important historical precedent — holding future presidents accountable in history for what this House may find were serious abuses of presidential power.
Given Trump’s own words seeking foreign intervention to help his reelection, we are confident that the American people will use the ballot box on Election Day to remove him from office.
We hope the margin of his defeat will be so great that no one who so disrespects common norms of decency and truth will ever be elected president again.