Once again, I have listened to the arguments of the respective counsel, studied briefs, and weighed evidence in an impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. This is not a responsibility I sought or expected. I certainly did not anticipate having to serve a second time as a Senator-juror in an impeachment trial.
An initial question shaping the context of this trial was whether or not the Senate has constitutional jurisdiction to try a President who is no longer in office. The Constitution gives the Senate the power to try all impeachments. In this case, where the House impeached the President while he was in office, it is particularly clear that the impeachment is constitutional and therefore that this trial is constitutional. The weight of legal opinion and historical precedent affirms this conclusion. Further, the Senate decided this question in the affirmative. I believe its decision was correct: The Senate must not surrender its power to hold accountable those who abuse their office or threaten our Republic, even in their final days in office.
In following the oath in an impeachment trial and in our deliberations on the final question, I believe it is up to every Senator to determine what to consider and what the Constitution and their conscience require of them. The conclusion I reached on the final verdict will not surprise anyone who read my reasoning in the first impeachment trial: I consider an attempt to corrupt an election to keep oneself in power one of the most reprehensible acts that can be taken by a sitting president. The second impeachment resulted from the President’s continued effort to do just that.
His attempt to pressure Georgia’s Secretary of State to falsify the electoral results was itself a heinous act that merited impeachment. President Trump summoned his supporters to Washington on the very day of the electoral vote count, knowing that among the people he gathered were many who had committed violence in the past and who had violent intent. Despite the obvious and well-known threat of violence, he incited and directed thousands to descend upon the seat of Congress as it was undertaking the constitutionally prescribed process to certify his successor. And then he not only failed to defend the Vice President and the others at the Capitol who he saw were in mortal danger, he also incited further violence against the Vice President.
The President’s conduct represented an unprecedented violation of his oath of office and of the public trust.
There is a thin line that separates our democratic republic from an autocracy: it is a free and fair election and the peaceful transfer of power that follows it. President Trump attempted to breach that line, again. What he attempted is what was most feared by the Founders. It is the reason they invested Congress with the power to impeach.
Accordingly, I voted to convict President Trump.
We must also consider how we came to a point where a president felt he could do as he did without suffering meaningful consequence.
It has become almost cliché to say that America is divided as never before in modern history. So, too, is the observation that this division is the product of a decline in trust in our governing institutions, of a decline in the social bonds forged in churches and charities and communities, of expanding income inequality, and of trusted news sources replaced by cable and internet algorithms calculated to inflame our prejudices.
Less unanimous are the predictions of where this division will lead. Even so, no one suggests that it will lead to a better future. Some envision an economy buffeted by policies drafted by the extreme wings of the political parties. Others claim that authoritarianism will replace democracy. Some anticipate social unrest and violence. A few even predict civil war. Still others fear that a weakened America will become vulnerable to an opportunistic foreign foe.
We instinctively know that the growing division represents a growing danger. Academics and pundits may promote cures, but in our hearts, we know that their bromides won’t heal the rift: People aren’t going to return to mainstream media, churches aren't going to experience a resurgence, and income inequality will remain a persistent feature of the global digital economy.
Throughout history, only one thing has been able to unite a divided nation: great leaders—leaders like Churchill who inspired a fearful nation; leaders like Lincoln who mustered the national will to save the Union; and leaders like Reagan who raised our spirits from suffocating malaise. Leaders like these also have been essential in our churches and universities and businesses and charities, and just as importantly, in our homes.
With our nation so divided, so vulnerable to economic distress or to civil violence or even to foreign adversaries, the need for leadership that unites and uplifts, that calls on our better angels, is as great as we have ever known. The corollary is that the failure of leaders to unite, to speak truth, to place duty above self, is as dangerous as we have ever known.
With the country as divided as it assuredly is, a person in a position of leadership who inflames passions with the purpose of perpetuating untruth commits a singularly dangerous sin against the Republic.
We Senator-jurors did not all vote in the same way in this impeachment trial. Differences in perception of the facts that were presented are to be expected. So, too, are the differences in our respective estimations of the impact of the outcome of the trial. People of conscience reached different conclusions. National unity does not require unanimity of opinion.
But civic unity does require truth. There is one untruth that divides the nation today like none other: it is that the election was stolen, that there was a massive conspiracy, more secret and widespread than any in human history, so brilliant in execution that no evidence can be found of it and no observer among the tens of thousands in our intelligence agencies will speak of it.
That lie brought our nation to a dark and dangerous place. Invented and disseminated by the President, it poisoned our politics and our public discourse.
Like you, I hear many calls for unity. It is apparent that calling for unity while at the same time appeasing the big lie of a stolen election is a fraud. It is the lie that caused the division. It is in the service of that lie that a mob invaded the Capitol on January 6th.
Now that the impeachment trial is behind us, it falls to each of us to affirm what we all know: President Biden won the election through the legitimate vote of the American people. The division in America will only begin to heal in the light of this truth, a truth which must now be affirmed by each of us in this chamber.