WASHINGTON, D.C. – Maine’s junior Sen. Angus King says he’ll cast his votes to convict President Donald J. Trump when the U.S. Senate votes on whether to remove the republican president.
In his statement on the floor of the Senate Tuesday afternoon, King said he was convinced the evidence showed the president’s misuse of power.
Below is Senator King’s statement in its entirety:
“Mr. President, I’d like to share my remarks not only with my colleagues today, but more so with those who come after us, and I want to touch on four issues – the trial itself, the President’s actions as outlined in impeachment Articles 1 and 2, and finally, the implications of our decision this week on the future of our government and our country.
First, the trial. Weeks ago, I joined my colleagues in swearing an oath to ‘do impartial justice’ – and since that time, I’ve done everything possible to fulfill that responsibility: paid full attention, taken three legal pads’ worth of notes, reviewed press accounts, and had conversations with my colleagues, and citizens in my home state of Maine. The one question I got most frequently back home was how we could proceed without calling relevant witnesses and securing the documents that would confirm – or deny – the charges against the President which are at the heart of this matter. But for the first time in American history, we failed to do so, robbing ourselves, and the American people, of a full record of this president’s misuse of his office. This failure stains this institution, undermines tomorrow’s verdict, and creates a precedent that will haunt those who come after us and the country as well.
But, now we’re here — left to make this decision without the facts concealed by the White House and left concealed by the votes of this body last Friday. This was not a trial in any real sense; it was instead an argument based upon a partial, but still damning, record. How much better it could have been had we had access to all the facts, facts which will eventually come out, but too late to inform our decisions.
As to the Articles themselves, I should begin by saying that I have always been a conservative on impeachment – for the better part of the last three years, I have argued, both publicly and privately, against the idea. Impeachment should not be a tool to remove a president on the basis of policy disagreements; the President’s lawyers are right when they argue that this would change our system of government and dangerously weaken any president.
But the events of last summer were no policy disagreement; they were a deliberate series of acts whereby the President sought to use the power of his office in his own personal and political interest, specifically by pressuring the government of a strategic partner – a partner, by the way, significantly dependent on our moral and financial support – to take action against one of the President’s political rivals and thereby undermine the integrity of the coming American election.
And this last point is important. In normal circumstances, the argument of the President’s defenders that impeachment is not necessary because the election is less than a year away would be persuasive. But the President was attempting to undermine that very election – and he gives every indication he will continue to do so. He has expressed no understanding that he did anything wrong, let alone anything resembling remorse. Impeachment is not a punishment, it is prevention, and the only way, unfortunately, to keep an unrepentant president from repeating his wrongful actions is removal. He has made it plain that he will listen to nothing else.
Article One charges a clear abuse of power in inviting foreign interference with the upcoming election. The President tasked his personal attorney to work with a foreign head of state, to induce an investigation – or just the mere announcement of one – that could harm one of the President’s top political rivals. And to compel the Ukrainians to do so, he unilaterally withheld nearly 400 million dollars appropriated by Congress to help them fend off Russia’s naked and relentless aggression. The President’s backers claim that this was done in an effort to root out corruption – but why not use official channels? Why did he focus on no examples of corruption other than ones directly affecting his political fortunes?
And why did he not make public the withholding of funds, as the executive branch typically does when seeking to leverage federal monies for policy goals?
No matter how many times the President claims it was a perfect call, it simply wasn’t. He clearly solicited foreign interference in our elections; he disregarded a Congressionally-passed law; he imperiled the security of a key American ally; he undermined our own national security. And if he was simply pursuing our national interest rather than his own, why was his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in charge? Put bluntly: no matter the defense, and as a majority of the members of this body apparently now recognize, President Trump still placed his own political interests above the national interests he has sworn to protect. And as I mentioned, he has shown no sign that he will stop doing so when the next occasion arises, as it surely will.
The implications of acquitting the President on Article One are serious: this President will likely do it again, and future presidents will be unbound from any restraints on the use of the world’s most powerful political office for personal political gain. We are moving dangerously close to an elected monarch – the very thing the Framers feared most.
Article 2, to me, is even more serious in its long-term implications. Article 1 concerns an incident – an egregious misuse of power, to be sure, but a specific set of actions – a scheme is the most appropriate description – which took place over the course of the last year. Article 2, however, which concerns the president’s wholesale obstruction of the impeachment process, goes to the heart of Congress’s Constitutionally-derived power to investigate wrongdoing by this or any future president.
I do not arrive at this conclusion lightly. I take seriously the White House counsel’s argument that there is a legitimate separation of powers issue here, that executive privilege is real (although never actually asserted in this case), and that there must be limits on Congress’s ability to intrude upon the executive function. But in this case, despite counsel’s questions about which authorizing resolution passed when or whether the House should have more vigorously pursued judicial remedies, the record is clear and is summarized in the White House letter to the House in early October – that the President and his Administration ‘cannot participate’ in the impeachment process. To me, it is this ongoing blanket refusal to cooperate in any way – no witnesses, no documents, no evidence of any kind – that undermines the assertion that a categorical refusal – with overt witness intimidation thrown in – was based upon any legitimate, narrowly tailored, legal or Constitutional privilege.
No prior president has ever taken such a position – and the argument that this blanket obstruction should be tested in court is severely undercut by the Administration’s recent argument that the courts have no jurisdiction over such disputes – and that the remedy for a stonewalled Congress, is – you guessed it – impeachment.
Interestingly, the first assertion of executive privilege was by George Washington, when the House sought background documents on the Jay Treaty. Washington rested his refusal to turn over the documents on the idea that the House had no jurisdiction over matters of foreign policy, but Washington did specify one instance where the House would have a legitimate claim on the documents’ release. What was that instance? You guessed it once again – impeachment.
If allowed to stand, this position – that the president, any president, can use his or her position to totally obstruct the production of evidence of their own wrongdoing eviscerates the impeachment power entirely and compromises the ongoing authority of Congress to provide any meaningful oversight of the executive whatsoever.
For these and other reasons, Mr. President, I will vote guilty on both articles of impeachment.
Mr. President, the Congress has been committing slow-motion institutional suicide for the past 70 years, abdicating its Constitutional authorities and responsibilities one-by-one. The war power, effectively in the hands of the President since 1942; authority over trade with other countries, superseded by unilateral, presidentially-imposed tariffs on friends and adversaries alike; and even the power of the purse, which a supine Congress ceded to the President last year, enabling him to rewrite our duly-passed appropriations bill to substitute his priorities for ours.
And now, this.
The structure of our Constitution is based upon the bedrock principle that the concentration of power is dangerous, that power divided and shared is the best long-term assurance of liberty. To the extent we compromise that principle, give up the powers the Framers bestowed upon us, and acquiesce to the growth of an imperial presidency, we are failing. We are failing our oaths, we are failing our most fundamental responsibility, we are failing our country.
History may record this week as a turning point in the American experiment – the day that we stepped away from the Framers’ vision, enabled a new and unbound presidency, and made ourselves observers rather than full participants in the shaping of our country’s future. I sincerely hope that I am wrong in all this, but deeply fear that I am right.”