01.13.21

Comment On The Second Impeachment Of President Donald Trump

Today’s decisive and bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives to impeach President Trump was nothing less than a vote to preserve our democracy.

President Trump has not simply failed to uphold his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, which itself would be sufficient to warrant his impeachment and removal.  He has emerged as the greatest threat to the Constitution and to American democracy in a generation.

He sparked the flames of sedition and has fanned them relentlessly.  For months he has lied about the election in an effort to undermine Americans’ faith in our democracy.  He has promoted division, disruption, and violence.  He has attempted to thwart our nation’s unbroken history of a constitutional and peaceful transfer of power.  And he has incited and promoted a riot that laid siege to our Capitol building — the very heart of our democracy.  Insurrectionists chanting his name viciously beat Capitol Police officers protecting the building.  They called for the death of the Vice President, they temporarily delayed Congress from fulfilling our constitutional duty to certify the election of President-Elect Joe Biden, and they left a trail of destruction in their wake including the deaths of five people.  President Trump bears responsibility for this attack.  Even President Nixon understood he had to resign after his crimes were exposed, and this President’s crimes are far worse.  The fact that he has disavowed any responsibility for the violent assault on our democracy makes clear that he is unworthy of public trust, unworthy of the office he holds, and must be removed.

Senate Democrats are ready to try the President for his high crimes and misdemeanors now.  Given the threat he continues to pose to our system of government, we owe it to the American people and to the Constitution to do so.  I hope that Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans will stand with our constitutional republic, as did 10 Republicans in the House of Representatives today.  Leader McConnell must agree to hold this trial without delay.  For the good of the country, he must lead his party in voting to convict President Trump and to prevent him from holding future office.  Both parties must send a unified message across the ages: no authoritarians are welcome in the halls of the world’s greatest democracy.

In my 46 years in the Senate, I never believed our country would reach this point.  Our republic has been under siege not by foreign powers or other adversaries, but from within the Oval Office itself.  If our democracy is to endure, and I believe it will, today must mark the beginning of the end of this dark undercurrent of insurrection fueled and exploited by the President.  Healing our country is critical, but uniting our country happens not through rushing to forgive and forget an act of domestic terrorism.  It happens through utilizing the constitutional powers granted to us by the Founders to protect our democracy.  We must act together now not just to hold President Trump accountable, but to ensure that no future president, no matter their party, places at risk our democracy in service of their own selfish, illegal, and authoritarian ambitions.

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[Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is the Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee and the dean of the Senate.]