As prepared for delivery during tonight's hearing:
Today is a very sad day for all of us. For the second time in 13 months, we are meeting to discuss impeachment of the President of the United States. The gravity of this occasion should give us all pause.
Certainly, the tumult of the last week is weighing heavily on all of our minds and souls. Last week, as Congress was meeting to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, rioters violently stormed the Capitol Building. Over the next several hours, chaos reigned. What started out as peaceful protests ended in violence, resulting in six deaths, including those of two courageous Capitol Police officers. And what should have been a ceremonial function of the legislative body turned into unimaginable tragedy.
I cannot condemn the violence that occurred last Wednesday strongly enough. Every single perpetrator who entered the Capitol Building intent on doing harm and causing mayhem should be brought to justice, and those who committed lawless and violent acts should face the fullest and harshest punishment available under the law.
After last Wednesday’s traumatic and difficult events, our priority should be to find ways to come together. In a week, we will be observing and celebrating the inauguration of a new president, demonstrating that the peaceful transition of power – a tradition that has occurred at the end of every presidency since George Washington – will still proceed. In this manner, America serves as a beacon of freedom and democracy for the entire world.
But instead of looking forward, the majority is today looking backward.
I understand the anger and emotion all members feel after the events of last Wednesday. And yes, the president does bear some responsibility for what occurred. Certainly, he will have to deal with the ramifications of Wednesday’s events for the rest of his life.
But I differ with my colleagues in the majority in that I do not believe their proposed course of action – impeachment – is the appropriate solution. I can think of no action the House can take that is more likely to further divide the American people than by putting the country through the trauma of another impeachment.
As I speak today, we are just eight days from the end of President Trump’s term of office. Next week, President-Elect Biden will take the oath of office as the President of the United States. At a time like this, we should be seeking a path toward healing for the American people.
But instead, the majority is rushing to judgment without due process. The reason for this is clear: we are just 8 days to the end of President Trump’s term.
But in rushing to impeach the president before he leaves office, the majority is abrogating the procedural considerations that have been the hallmark of every modern impeachment proceeding, except this one. In moving ahead now, the majority is foregoing an investigation, committee hearings, fact witnesses and expert witnesses. They are foregoing an opportunity for members to ask questions, to review the evidence, to hear new pieces of evidence and to consult with experts on impeachment and the Constitution. And they are foregoing an opportunity for the president, as the accused, to be heard. Not because his reckless words are deserving of a defense, but because the presidency itself demands due process in impeachment proceedings.
Failing to utilize the historical and constitutional process we have used in the past and rushing to the floor makes this what Professor Jonathan Turley calls a “dangerous snap impeachment.” A snap impeachment, without due process and without due consideration, will not help bring the American people together, as our focus should be, and it is a great disservice to the institution and to the country.
But to make matters worse, a snap impeachment like this also does not give members the opportunity to appropriately consider this course of action and put it into context. I know the majority believes the case for impeachment is obvious, but I am not convinced that is true, and I know a large number of members who feel as I do. There is a range of opinions about the president’s conduct last week, and given those differences, I believe the appropriate course for us to take is to actually have a process – we should be considering these allegations, discussing them, working them through with experts and coming to a decision. Without taking that course, there will be no consensus on this matter. And the consequences of that may be dire. Moreover, some believe that this process is so rushed that it will inevitably lead to doubts about its fairness.
The simple fact of the matter is that there is no reason to rush ahead like this other than the impending end of the president’s term. The Senate cannot even take up a trial of the president until 1 p.m. on January 20 at the earliest, one hour after President-elect Biden takes office. And when it gets there, Senator Manchin has said that he does not believe there are sufficient votes to hit the two-thirds threshold for conviction. The majority is rushing forward on a course with no clear end and no predictable conclusion.
Mr. Chairman, I think we need to take a deep breath and think about this more clearly. We’ve all been through a terrible trauma, but we need to recognize that what we are considering today is the result of a flawed process. The House’s action today will not bring the country together. Instead, it will ensure that the transition to a new presidency is clouded with the uncertainty of a hastily executed impeachment.
I deeply regret that this is the course the majority has chosen. I think there are better alternatives available to us, including bipartisan options that an overwhelming majority of the House could stand behind. There is also time to choose a different path, one that leads to reconciled divisions and brighter days ahead. There are a variety of legislative tools that can bring us together, as opposed to tear us apart. I hope we will choose that path.