Weekly Column

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From the day President Trump was elected, Democrats have said it was their mission to impeach and remove him from office. In September, their three years of working for this came to a head – Speaker Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives would initiate an impeachment inquiry against the President of the United States.

The authority to impeach and remove a sitting president is among the gravest responsibilities that our Constitution grants to Congress.

There is a reason why our Founders warned that the impeachment process could be abused to serve short-term political goals. They knew in order to avoid a toxic partisan precedent, impeachment of a president would need a clear basis and bipartisan support. They understood this process should only be initiated when the evidence was overwhelmingly strong, objective, and justified. Our Framers pleaded that if this process were weaponized by the fever of factions, it would lead to the mistrust and the cheapening of our political institutions – tearing our national unity.

Late last year, those fears our Founders foretold played out before us all. The House of Representatives conducted an impeachment process that was deeply partisan, lasting just 12 weeks. House Democrats held secret meetings, did not seek subpoenas through the courts, and even refused to litigate any questions of privilege.

They did all of this without providing President Trump a fair inquiry. Unbelievably, the president was not allowed to have his lawyers cross-examine witnesses at the House Intelligence Committee hearings and deposition. 

This was a major departure from how impeachment proceedings were conducted in the past, where both the majority and minority had the right to question witnesses, and the president’s lawyer had the right to be present. 

On December 18, 2019, House Democrats voted on strict party lines to impeach the president. In fact, the only bipartisan agreement was against impeachment: three House Democrats crossed party lines to oppose one or both articles of impeachment and one House Democrat voted “present” on both. What’s more, House Leadership waited another month to send the articles to the Senate so that it could conduct a trial.

It is important to remember that the framers of the Constitution established the United States Senate for this exact purpose: to take the long view. This body was designed for times such as these – to cool the partisan rage and assess how our actions will affect future generations and our core institutions.

The Senate trial will begin the same way it did 20 years ago during the Clinton impeachment. The House has appointed its team of seven lawmakers or “managers” who will be prosecutors in the trial, while the president’s legal team serves as defense. The House managers will make their case and the president’s defense team will have an equal opportunity for rebuttal. Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the entire trial. 

All Senators must remain silent and seated at their desks at all times. Senators may submit questions in writing, which will be read aloud by the Chief Justice. An examination of evidence will follow. 

Closing arguments will then take place with two representatives from the House managers and the president’s legal team. The Senate will deliberate and then vote on each impeachment article separately, and any conviction would require a two-thirds vote. If less than two-thirds of senators vote to convict, the entire process comes to an end – resulting in acquittal of the president.

As disappointed as I am in the way the proceedings were conducted in the House, I must now fulfill my constitutional duty as a juror in the Senate trial. 

I want to assure all Nebraskans that I will not waver in my commitment to our nation’s founding principles. I am committed to a fair and serious process and will honor the oath I took to listen and judge impartially as the House managers present their evidence and the president’s legal team responds. 

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.