/  Ranking Member Cole Floor Remarks on H. Res. 24

Ranking Member Cole Floor Remarks on H. Res. 24

As prepared for delivery on the House floor:

Mr. Speaker, today is a sad one for all of us – for me personally, for the Rules Committee, for the entire House of Representatives and, most certainly, for the American people. For the second time in 13 months, we are meeting to discuss impeachment of the President of the United States.

Our meeting today does not arise in a vacuum and comes at what I hope and pray is the end of a tumultuous period for our country. Less than one week ago, Congress met to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. What started out as peaceful protests turned into a riot, as an untold number of individuals stormed the Capitol Building. Six people died as a result of this mob, and it is only by the grace of God and the brave acts of the U.S. Capitol Police, the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police, the FBI, the ATF and other responding agencies that there was not more bloodshed. Violent acts such as these have no place in our republic.

These shocking and sobering events rest high on our minds today, as well they should.  Certainly, January 6, 2021, will live in my memory as the darkest day during my time of service as a member of this House.

After these grave events, we – as a nation, and as an institution – have an opportunity to come together. President Trump has conceded the 2020 election. Congress has certified the results of the election. And next Wednesday, President-elect Biden will be sworn in as the President of the United States. Congress and the nation can move forward, knowing that the political process was completed as designed and that the constitutional framework that has governed our republic since 1789 held firm.

But instead of moving forward as a unifying force, the majority in the House is choosing to divide us further. With only a week to go in his term, the majority is asking us to consider a resolution impeaching President Trump. And they do so knowing full well that, even if the House passes this resolution, the Senate will not be able to begin considering these charges until after President Trump’s term ends.

Mr. Speaker, I can think of no action the House can take that is more likely to further divide the American people than the action we are contemplating today. Emotions are clearly running high, and political divisions have never been more apparent in my lifetime. We desperately need to seek a path toward healing for the American people. 

So it is unfortunate that a path to support healing is not the path the majority has chosen today. Instead, the House is moving forward erratically, with a truncated process that does not comport with modern practice and that will give members no time to contemplate this serious course of action. 

In every modern impeachment inquiry, an investigation and committee action has preceded bringing an impeachment resolution to the floor. In part, this is to ensure that members have full facts, the opportunity to engage expert witness and have the chance to be heard. It also provides due process to the President of the United States, and again, in every modern impeachment inquiry the president has been given an opportunity to be heard in some form or another. This is necessary in order to ensure that the American people have confidence in the procedures the House is following. And it is also necessary not because the president’s inappropriate and reckless words are deserving of a defense, but because the presidency itself demands due process in impeachment proceedings.

Unfortunately, the majority has chosen to race to the floor with a new article of impeachment, forgoing any investigation, any committee process or any chance for members to fully contemplate this course of action before proceeding. Professor Jonathan Turley is correct when he called this a "dangerous snap impeachment – an impeachment that effectively would go to a vote without the deliberation or inquiries of a traditional hearing."

Professor Turley also noted that "the damage caused by the rioters this week was enormous, however it will pale in comparison to the damage from a new precedent of a snap impeachment..."

If the majority is seeking consensus, this is hardly the way to create it. The majority is failing to provide the House with an opportunity to review all of the facts –  which are still coming to light –  to discuss all of the evidence, to listen to scholars, to examine the witnesses and to consider precedents. This is not the type of robust process we have followed for every modern impeachment, and the failure to do so does a great disservice to this institution and to this country.

Mr. Speaker, I can think of nothing that will cause further division more than the path the majority is now taking. Rather than looking ahead to a new administration, the majority is again seeking to settle scores against the old one. Rather than seeking to heal America, they are seeking to divide us more deeply. And rather than following the appropriate processes the House has used in every modern impeachment, the majority is rushing to the floor, tripping all over themselves in their rush to impeach President Trump a second time.

What’s worse, though the majority seems to believe that this course of action is self-evident. I have to tell them that it is not. Members have reviewed the same conduct and have come to dramatically different conclusions. Legal scholars like Professor Turley and Professor Alan Dershowitz, both of whom condemned the president’s statements, believe that his statements are not impeachable. I know other scholars have different points of view. 

Given this difference of opinion, shouldn’t we have a better process than this? Shouldn’t we have a chance to examine witnesses, discuss this matter with legal scholars and consider this in committee? On a matter as grave and consequential as impeachment, shouldn’t we follow the same process we have used in every modern impeachment, rather than rushing to the floor?

On behalf of generations of Americans to come, we need to think more clearly about the consequences of our actions today. The fact of the matter is that there is no reason to rush forward like this, other than the very obvious fact that there are only seven days left until a new president takes office. But what’s worse, as Professor Dershowitz has pointed out, because of the Senate’s rules, the case cannot come to trial in the Senate until 1 p.m. on January 20 – one hour after President Trump leaves office.

This is an ill-advised course in my opinion, Mr. Speaker. Even Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, agrees. Senator Manchin is quoted this week as having said "I think this is so ill-advised for Joe Biden to be coming in, trying to heal the country, trying to be the president of all the people when we are going to be so divided and fighting again. Let the judicial system do its job." 

So what, then, is the point of this rush to impeach? We are coming off a horrific event that resulted in six deaths. We have an opportunity to move forward, but we cannot if the majority insists on bringing the country through the trauma of another impeachment. It will carry forward into the next president’s term, ensuring that he will struggle to organize his administration. What’s worse, it will continue to generate the bitterness so many of us have opposed. Why put us through that when we can’t actually resolve this before the end of the president’s term?

Mr. Speaker, I think my colleagues in the majority need to think about this more soberly. We need to recognize we are following a flawed process. We need to recognize that people of goodwill can differ. And we need to recognize that while the House may be done with this matter after today’s vote, it will not be done for the country. It will not be done for the Senate, and it will not be done for the incoming Biden administration. The House’s action today will only extend division longer than necessary.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would note that there are other remedies that can be pursued. The president is expected to face litigation over his role in last Wednesday’s events. There will be criminal proceedings against the perpetrators, and I hope all those who stormed the Capitol will be brought to justice. And some members have proposed an alternative procedure, censuring the president, which could garner significant bipartisan support in the House.  

I do not think impeachment is a wise course, Mr. Speaker. I would urge my friends in the majority to reconsider. There is still time to choose a different path, one that leads to reconciliation and hope for better and brighter days.  

With that, I urge opposition to the rule, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Created: January 13, 2021