Durbin Votes Guilty On Both Articles Of Impeachment Against President Trump
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today voted guilty on both Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Shortly before the votes on the Articles of Impeachment, Durbin gave a speech on the Senate floor where he implored his colleagues to think carefully about what the acquittal of this President will mean for our democracy.
“So let us open our eyes to the morning after a judgment of acquittal. Facing a well-established election siege by Russia and other enemies of the United States, we, the Senate, will have absolved a President who continues to brazenly invite foreign interference in our elections. Expect more of the same,” Durbin said. “A majority of this body will have voted for the President’s argument that inviting interference by a foreign government is not impeachable if it serves that President’s personal, political interests.
Durbin continued, “We will also have found for the first time in our history that an impeachment proceeding in the Senate can be conducted without any direct witnesses or evidence presented on either side of the case and that a President facing impeachment can ignore subpoenas to produce documents or witnesses to Congress. Hamilton described the Senate as the best venue for an impeachment trial because it is independent and dignified. When the Senate voted 51-49 against witnesses and evidence, those 51 abandoned any claim to independence or dignity.”
Durbin concluded by urging his colleagues to each do their part to work to bind the wounds of our divided nation.
“At this sad and angry moment let my last words be a personal appeal to my Senate colleagues. Last night many of us attended a State of the Union address which was as emotionally charged as any I have seen,” Durbin said. “As divided as our nation may be and as divided as this Senate may be we should remember America has weathered greater storms than this impeachment and our current political standoff.”
Durbin continued, “It was Abraham Lincoln in the darkness of our worst storm who called on us ‘to strive on to finish the work we are in, to work to bind the nation’s wounds.’ After this vote and after this day those of us who are entrusted with this high office must each do our part to work to bind the wounds of our divided nation. I hope we can leave this chamber with that common resolve.”
Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor are available here.
Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.
Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.
Durbin also entered into the Congressional record a letter signed by more than 290 constitutional law professors and scholars of the American constitution about how abuses of power and non-criminal acts are impeachable.
Durbin’s remarks as delivered are available below:
Remarks as Delivery by
Senator Richard Durbin
On the Impeachable Offenses of President Donald John Trump
Feb. 5, 2020
Benjamin Franklin knew the strength of our Constitution but he also knew its vulnerability. His words: “A republic -- if you can keep it” -- were a stark warning. Franklin believed every generation could face the challenge of protecting and defending our nation’s liberty-affirming document.
We know this personally. Before we can legally serve as Senators we must publicly swear an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” A trial of impeachment, more than any other Senate assignment, tests the oath each of us takes before the people of this nation.
The President’s legal team warns us of the danger of impeachment and conviction. They tell us to think carefully about what the removal of a duly elected president could mean for our democracy. But if we should have our eyes wide open to the danger of conviction, we also cannot ignore the danger of acquittal.
The facts of this impeachment are well known and many Republicans concede they are likely true. They believe, as I do, that President Trump pressured the Ukrainian President by withholding vital military aid and a prized White House visit in return for the announcement of an investigation of the Bidens and the Russian-concocted CrowdStrike fantasy. Some of these same Republicans acknowledge that what the President did was “inappropriate” – at least one has used the word “impeachable” -- but many say they are still going to acquit him regardless.
So let us open our eyes to the morning after a judgment of acquittal.
Facing a well-established election siege by Russia and other enemies of the United States, we, the Senate, will have absolved a President who continues to brazenly invite foreign interference in our elections. Expect more of the same.
A majority of this body will have voted for the President’s argument that inviting interference by a foreign government is not impeachable if it serves the President’s personal, political interests.
We will also have found for the first time in the history of our nation that an impeachment proceeding in the Senate can be conducted without any direct witnesses or evidence presented on either side of the case and that a President facing impeachment can ignore subpoenas to produce documents or witnesses to Congress.
Alexander Hamilton described the Senate as the best venue for an impeachment trial because it is “independent and dignified,” in his words. When the Senate voted 51-49 against witnesses and evidence, those 51 raised into question any claim to independence or dignity.
In addition, an acquittal will leave the extreme views stated by the President’s defense counsel Alan Dershowitz unchallenged:
(1) First, that “abuse of power” is not an impeachable offense;
(2) Second, that the impeachment charges against the President were constitutionally insufficient; -- and
(3) Third, his most dangerous theory, that unless the President has committed an actual crime, his conduct cannot be corrupt or impeachable as long as he believes it was necessary for his reelection.
By this logic, Professor Dershowitz would have excused Richard Nixon’s ordering IRS audits of his political enemies. Mr. Dershowitz has created an escape clause to impeachment which is breathtaking in its impact and unfounded in our legal history.
We have all received a letter signed by nearly 300 constitutional law scholars flatly rejecting the arguments offered by the President’s defense team. I ask unanimous consent that the scholars’ letter be entered into the Record. Yet, a verdict of acquittal by the Senate blesses the professor’s torturous reasoning.
An acquittal verdict would also give President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani a pat on the back to continue his global escapades, harassing American Ambassadors whose service he distrusts and lounging at European cigar bars with an entourage of post-Soviet amigos.
More than anything a verdict of acquittal says a majority of the Senate believes this President is above the law and cannot be held accountable for conduct abusing the powers of his office. And make no mistake this President clearly believes that is true.
On July 23rd – two days before his phone call with President Zelensky – President Trump spoke to a crowd of his young supporters. He told them, quote: “I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” This is the dangerous principle that President Trump and his lawyers are asking us, with a verdict of acquittal, to accept. Under the oath I have sworn, I cannot.
What does it say of this Congress, and our nation, that in three years we have become so anesthetized to outrage that, for a majority of this Senate, there is nothing – nothing -- this President can do or say that rises to the level of blush-worthy, let alone impeachable?
Nearly six years ago, I travelled to Ukraine with a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues led by John McCain. It was one of John’s whirlwind visits where we crammed five days’ worth of meetings into 48 hours.
We arrived in Kyiv on March 14, 2014. It was bitterly cold. Ukrainians had just ousted a corrupt, Russian-backed, leader who looted the national treasury and hollowed out their nation’s military. They had done so by taking to the streets, risking their lives for democracy and a better future. More than 100 ordinary citizens in Kyiv had been killed by security forces of the old government simply because they were protesting for democracy.
Seeing Ukraine in a fragile democratic transition Vladimir Putin had ordered an invasion and occupied Crimea. Putin and his thinly disguised Russian thugs were on the verge of seizing Donetsk in the east. I asked the prime minister what Ukraine needed to defend itself. He said: “Everything. We don’t have anything that floats, flies or runs.”
Many may not appreciate how devastating Russia’s war on Ukraine has been to that struggling young democracy. Their costly battle with Russia was for a principle that is really basic to America’s national security as well.
In a country with one-eighth of our population, more Ukrainian troops have died defending Ukraine from Russia than American troops have perished in Afghanistan. During the months President Trump illegally withheld military aid, as many as two dozen Ukrainian soldiers were killed in battle.
By withholding security aid from Ukraine for his own personal, political benefit, President Trump endangered the security of a fragile democracy. Can there be any deeper betrayal of a President’s responsibilities than to endanger our national security and the security of an ally for his own personal, political gain?
And to those of my colleagues who describe the President’s conduct as merely “inappropriate,” I disagree. Disparaging John McCain’s service to our country is disgusting and inappropriate. What this President has done to Ukraine crosses that line. It is impeachable.
I’ll close by remembering two public servants who, like us, were called by history to judge a President.
Tom Railsback passed away as this impeachment proceeding began. He was two days shy of his 88th birthday. I knew Tom and considered him a friend.
In 1974, Tom was a Republican congressman from Moline, Illinois, and a member of the House Judiciary Committee. He regarded President Nixon as a political friend. He believed that Richard Nixon had achieved much for America, including opening the door to China.
After studying the Watergate evidence closely, Congressman Railsback came to believe that Richard Nixon had violated the Constitution. When President Nixon refused to turn over records and recordings requested by Congress, Tom Railsback took to the House Floor to say, “If the Congress doesn't get the material we think we need and then votes to exonerate, we’ll be regarded as a paper tiger.”
When he voted to impeach President Nixon Tom believed it was probably the end of his career, but he was elected four more times. To his dying day, Tom Railsback was proud of his votes. He voted for his country above his party.
Bill Cohen – also a Republican – was a freshman Congressman at the time and also a member of the House Judiciary Committee. He studied the evidence with Tom Railsback and then worked with him to draft articles of impeachment.
Bill Cohen received death threats and he thought his votes to impeach President Nixon would be the end of his political career. But he went on to a distinguished career in the House, three terms in the Senate and served as Secretary of Defense.
Listen to what Bill Cohen said recently of President Trump’s actions – quote: “This is presidential conduct that you want to be ashamed of. He is corrupting institutions, politicizing the military, and acts like he is the law.” He added: “If … (the President’s conduct)… is acceptable, we really don't have a Republic as we've known it anymore.”
May I respectfully say to my Senate colleagues: Ben Franklin warned us of this day.
I will vote guilty on both Articles of Impeachment against President Donald John Trump: Article I, abuse of power; and Article II, obstruction of Congress. But at this sad and angry moment let my last words be a personal appeal to my Senate colleagues.
Last night many of us attended a State of the Union address which was as emotionally charged as any I have attended. As divided as our nation may be and as divided as this Senate may be we should remember America has weathered greater storms than this impeachment and our current political standoff.
It was Abraham Lincoln in the darkness of our worst storm who called on us “to strive on to finish the work we are in, to work to bind the nation’s wounds.”
After this vote and after this day those of us who are entrusted with this high office must each do our part to work to bind the wounds of our divided nation. I hope we can leave this chamber with that common resolve.
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