WASHINGTON, February 5 – Today, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted to convict President Trump in his Senate impeachment trial. Sanders submitted the following statement for the record explaining his decision:
Statement for the Record on the Impeachment Trial of President Trump
An impeachment trial of a sitting president of the United States is not a matter to be taken lightly. A president should not and must not be impeached because of political disagreements or policy differences. That is what elections are for. Instead, an impeachment trial occurs when a president violates the oath he or she swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States.
Therefore, there are two questions for me to answer as a juror in the impeachment trial of President Donald J Trump: whether President Trump is guilty of abusing his power as president for his own political gain, and whether he obstructed Congress in their investigation of him.
The first article of impeachment charges President Trump with abuse of power when he “solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election.” Based on the evidence I heard during the Senate trial, Trump “corruptly solicited” an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son in order to benefit his own reelection chances. To increase the pressure on Ukraine, President Trump then withheld approximately $400 million in military aid from Ukraine. Finally, according to the charges, even when Trump’s scheme to withhold aid was made public, he “persisted in openly and corruptly urging and soliciting Ukraine to undertake investigations for his personal political benefit.” So on this first article of impeachment, it is my view that the president is clearly guilty.
The second article of impeachment asserts that Trump obstructed Congress in its investigation of Trump’s abuse of power, stating that Trump “has directed the unprecedented, categorical, and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives pursuant to its ‘sole Power of Impeachment.” According to the warped logic of the arguments presented by the president’s counsel, there are almost no legal bounds to anything a president can do so long as it benefits his own reelection. If a president cannot be investigated criminally or by Congress while in office, then he or she would be effectively above the law. President Trump, who raised absurd legal arguments to hide his actions and obstruct Congress, is clearly guilty here as well.
Now frankly, while the House of Representatives passed two articles of impeachment, President Trump could have been impeached for more than just that.
For example, it seems clear that Donald Trump has violated both the domestic and foreign emoluments clauses. In other words, it appears Trump has used the federal government, over and over, to benefit himself financially.
In 2018 alone, Trump’s organization made over $40 million in profit just from his Trump hotel in DC alone. And foreign governments, including lobbying firms connected to the Saudi Arabian government, have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at that hotel. That appears to be corruption, pure and simple.
In addition, as we all know, there is significant evidence that Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice with regard to the Robert Mueller investigation by, among other actions, firing the FBI director, James Comey.
One of the difficulties of dealing with President Trump and his administration is that we cannot trust his words. He is a pathological liar who, according to media research, has lied thousands of times since he was elected. During the trial, I posed a question to the House impeachment managers: given that the media has documented President Trump’s thousands of lies while in office — more than 16,200 as of January 20th, 2020 — why would we be expected to believe that anything President Trump says has credibility? The answer is that, sadly, we cannot.
Sadly, we now have a president who sees himself as above the law and is either ignorant or indifferent to the Constitution. And we have a president who clearly committed impeachable offenses.
The evidence of Trump’s guilt is so overwhelming that the Republican Party, for the first time in the history of presidential impeachment, obstructed testimony from witnesses - even willing witnesses. It defies basic common sense that in a trial to determine whether the President of the United States is above the law, the Senate would not hear from the people who could speak directly to President Trump’s behavior and motive. Leader Mitch McConnell’s handling of this trial, unfortunately, was nothing more than a political act.
Yet this impeachment trial is about more than just the charges against President Trump. What this impeachment vote will decide is whether we believe that the president, any president, is above the law.
Last week, Alan Dershowitz, one of President Trump’s lawyers, argued to the Senate that a president cannot be impeached for any actions he or she takes that are intended to benefit their own reelection. That is truly an extraordinary and unconstitutional assertion. If Trump is acquitted, I fear the repercussions of this argument would do grave damage to the rule of law in our country.
Imagine what such a precedent would allow an incumbent president to get away with for the sake of their own reelection. Hacking an opponent's email using government resources? Soliciting election interference from China? Under this argument, what would stop a president from withholding infrastructure or education funding to a given state to pressure elected officials into helping the president politically?
Let me be clear: Republicans will set a dangerous and lawless precedent if they vote to acquit President Trump. A Republican acquittal of Donald Trump won’t just mean that the current president is above the law, it will give a green light to all future presidents to disregard the law so long as it benefits their reelection.
It gives me no pleasure to conclude that President Donald Trump is guilty of the offenses laid out in the two articles of impeachment. I will vote to convict on both counts. But my greater concern is if Republicans acquit President Trump by undercutting the very rule of law. That will truly be remembered as a sad and dangerous moment in the history of our country.