Throughout the trial, new and incriminating evidence against the president came to light almost daily, and there can be no doubt that it will continue to emerge in books, in newspapers or in congressional hearings. Most important, reports of former national security adviser John Bolton’s forthcoming book only further confirm that the president illegally withheld military aid to Ukraine until Kyiv announced the sham investigations that the president sought for his political benefit.
Although Bolton told the House that he would sue rather than appear to testify pursuant to a subpoena, he appeared to have a change of heart and made it clear that he would be willing to testify in the Senate. Yet, rather than hear what Bolton had to say, Republican senators voted to hold the first impeachment trial in U.S. history without a single live witness or new document.
Notwithstanding the Constitution’s mandate that the Senate shall have the sole power to “try” impeachments, a narrow majority of senators opted not to, and instead acted as though it were an appellate court precluded from going beyond the record in the House. Nothing supported this unprecedented prohibition on witnesses and documents, except the overriding interest of a president determined to hide any further incriminating information from the American people and a Senate majority leader in his thrall.
Instead, the president’s defenders resorted to a radical theory that would validate his worst, most authoritarian instincts. They argued that a president cannot abuse his power, no matter how corrupt his conduct, if he believes it will benefit his reelection. The Founders would have been aghast at such a sweeping assertion of absolute power, completely at odds with our system of checks and balances. Even some of the president’s lawyers were ultimately forced to back away from it.
And so, at last, the president’s team urged that it should be left to the voters to pronounce judgment on the president’s misconduct, even as it worked to prevent the public from learning the full facts that might inform their decision. More ominously, this leaves the president free to try to cheat in the very election that is supposed to provide the remedy for his cheating.
Just this week, with the vote on impeachment still pending before the Senate, the president’s personal lawyer and emissary, Rudolph W. Giuliani, repeated his call for Ukraine to investigate the president’s political rival and urged the president to carry on seeking such illicit help.
When we made our final arguments to the Senate, we asked whether there was one Republican senator who would say enough, do impartial justice as their oath required, and convict the president.
And there was. Mitt Romney. The senator from Utah showed a level of moral courage that validated the Founders’ faith that we were up to the rigors of self-governance.
No one can seriously argue that President Trump has learned from this experience. This was not the first time he solicited foreign interference in his election, nor will it be the last. As we said during the trial, if left in office, the president will not stop trying to cheat in the next election until he succeeds.
We must make sure he does not.
Republican leadership in the Senate had the power to conceal the president’s full misconduct during the trial by disallowing witnesses and documents, but they cannot keep the full, ugly truth of the president’s conduct, and that of all the president’s men, from the American people. Not for long.
Because of the impeachment process, voters can now stand forewarned of the lengths to which the president will go to try to secure his reelection, violating the law and undermining our national security and that of our allies.
By denying the American people a fair trial, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also deprived the president of something that he desperately sought — exoneration. There can be no exoneration without a legitimate trial. Out of fear of what they would learn, the Senate refused to hold one. The president will not be vindicated, and neither will the Senate, certainly not by history.
The Constitution is a wondrous document, but it is not self-effectuating; it requires vigilance, and a pledge by every new generation of voters and public servants to safeguard and fulfill its lofty promise. And it requires a kind of courage that Robert F. Kennedy once said is more rare than that on the battlefield — moral courage. Without it, no constitution can save us, but with it, no hardship can overcome us. We remain committed to doing everything in our power to preserve this marvelous experiment in self-governance.
America is worth it.