WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) delivered remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday discussing why he will vote against the articles of impeachment Wednesday.
Last week, Portman released a statement on the issue of witnesses in the impeachment trial and he has continuously said that while the actions of President Trump in this case were wrong and inappropriate, they did not rise to the level of removing a duly elected president from office. In his remarks, Portman stressed the importance of coming together on a bipartisan basis to heal the wounds the partisan impeachment trial has inflicted on an already divided nation by working on bipartisan legislation addressing the needs of the American people, including lowering prescription drug costs, addressing crumbling infrastructure, closing the skills gap, promoting energy efficiency and more.
A transcript of his remarks can be found below, and a video can be found here.
“I’m here today to talk about the impeachment trial and the factors I’ve considered in making my decision on the articles of impeachment from the House. I’ve now read hundreds of pages of legal briefs and memos, including the testimony of 17 witnesses. Here on the Senate floor, I have reviewed more than 190 witness videos and listened carefully to more than 65 hours of detailed presentations from both the House managers and from the president’s legal team.
“As co-founder and co-chair of the Ukraine Caucus and someone who is proud to represent many Ukrainian-Americans in Ohio, I have been active for the past several years in helping Ukraine as it has sought freedom and independence since the 2014 Revolution of Dignity that saw the corrupt Russian-backed government of Viktor Yanukovich replaced with pro-Western elected leaders. Since first seeing the transcript of the phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky four months ago, I’ve consistently said that the President asking Ukraine for an investigation of Joe Biden was inappropriate and wrong. I’ve also said since then that any actions taken by members of the administration or those outside the administration to try to delay military assistance or a White House meeting pending an investigation by Ukraine were not appropriate, either. But while I don’t condone this behavior, these actions do not rise to the level of removing President Trump from office and taking him off the ballot in a presidential election season that’s already well underway.
“I first look to the fact that the Founders meant for impeachment of a president to be extremely rare, reserved only for, and I quote, ‘treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.’ Any fair reading of what the Founders meant in the Constitution and in the Federalist Papers in the context of history, and just plain common sense makes it clear that removing a duly elected president demands that those arguing for conviction meet a high standard. As an example, for good reason, there’s never been a presidential impeachment that didn’t allege a crime. In the Clinton impeachment, the independent counsel concluded that President Clinton committed not one, but two crimes. In this case, no crime is alleged. Let me repeat – in the two articles of impeachment that came over to us from the House, there is no criminal law violation alleged. Although I don’t think that that’s always necessary -- there could be circumstances where a crime isn’t necessary in an impeachment --without a crime, it’s an even higher bar for those who advocate for a conviction, and that high bar is not met here.
“What’s more, even though it was delayed, the President ultimately did provide the needed military assistance to Ukraine and he provided it before the September 30 budget deadline. And the requested investigations by Ukraine were not undertaken. It’s an important point to make -- the aid went and the investigations did not occur. The military assistance is particularly important to me as a strong supporter of Ukraine. In fact, I was one of those senators who fought to give President Obama and his administration the authority to provide badly needed lethal military assistance to Ukraine in response to the Russian aggression that came right after the Revolution of Dignity in 2014. I must say, I strongly urged the Obama administration to use that authority and, like Ukraine, I was deeply disappointed when they did not. I strongly supported President Trump’s decision to change course and provide that assistance shortly after he came into office. While visiting Ukrainian troops on the frontlines in the Donbas region of Ukraine, I’ve seen firsthand how much those soldiers need the military assistance President Trump alone has provided.
“Beyond whether the president’s conduct met the high bar of impeachment, there is also the underlying issue of the legitimacy of the House impeachment process. The House Democrats sent the Senate a flawed case built on what respected George Washington University constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, calls quote ‘the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president.’ Instead of using the tools available to compel the administration to produce documents and witnesses, the House followed a self-imposed and entirely political deadline for voting on the articles of impeachment before Christmas. After the rushed vote, the House then inexplicably stalled, keeping those articles from being delivered here in the Senate for 28 days – time they could have used to subpoena witnesses and resolve legitimate disagreements about whether evidence was privileged or not. They didn’t even bother to subpoena witnesses they then wanted the Senate to subpoena for them.
“The House process was also lacking in fundamental fairness and due process in a number of respects. It is incomprehensible to me that the president’s counsel did not have the opportunity to cross examine fact witnesses, and that the House selectively leaked deposition testimony from closed-door sessions. Rushing an impeachment case through the House without due process and giving the Senate a half-baked case to finish sets a very dangerous precedent. If the Senate were to convict, it would send a wrong message and risk making this kind of quick, partisan impeachment in the House a regular occurrence moving forward. That would be terrible for the country. Less than a year ago, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, and I quote, ‘Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path.’ She was right.
“It’s better to let the people decide. Early voting has already started in some states and the Iowa caucuses occurred last night. Armed with all the information, we should let the voters have their say at the ballot box. During the last impeachment 21 years ago, now-House manager Congressman Jerry Nadler said, and I quote, ‘There must never be a narrowly voted impeachment, or an impeachment substantially supported by one of our major political parties and largely opposed by the other. Such an impeachment would lack legitimacy.’ In this case, the impeachment wasn’t just ‘substantially supported’ by Democrats, it was only supported by Democrats. In fact, a few Democrats actually voted with all the Republicans to oppose the impeachment.
“Founder Alexander Hamilton feared that impeachment could easily fall prey to partisan politics. That is exactly what happened here with the only purely partisan impeachment in the history of our great country. For all these reasons, I’m voting against the articles of impeachment tomorrow. It’s time to move on, and to move on to focus on bipartisan legislation to help the families we represent. Unlike the House, the Senate is blocked from conducting its regular business during impeachment. My colleague from New Jersey asked a moment ago, ‘How do we heal? How do we heal the wounds?’
“Our country is divided and I think the impeachment has further divided an already polarized country. I think we heal in part by surprising the people and coming out from our partisan corners and getting stuff done, stuff that they care about that affects the families we were sent here to represent. While in the impeachment trial we are prevented from doing the important legislative work our constituents expect like passing legislation to lower prescription drug costs, like rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, like addressing the new addiction crisis -- the combination of synthetic opioids like fentanyl and pure crystal meth coming from Mexico. It’s an opportunity for us to strengthen our economy with better skills training, including passing legislation to give workers the skills they need to meet the jobs that are out there. Those are just a few ideas that are ready to go. Ideas the president supports, Republicans support, Democrats support. I’ve been working on bipartisan legislation like the JOBS Act to provide that needed skills training, the Restore Our Parks Act to deal with the infrastructure that’s crumbling in our National Parks, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, which promotes energy efficiency, something we should be able to agree on across the aisle. All of these have been have been sitting idle this year as we have grappled with impeachment.
“How do we heal? How do we heal the wounds? Well in part, let’s do it by working together to pass legislation people care about. Back home, I have seen that the impeachment process has indeed further divided an already polarized country. A conviction in the Senate – removing Donald Trump from office and taking his name off the ballot – would dangerously deepen that growing rift. That’s one reason I’m glad we’re not likely to see a conviction. Because I do care about our country and bringing it together. Instead, my hope is that lessons have been learned, that we can heal some wounds for the sake of the country, that we can turn to the bipartisan work most Americans expect us to do, and that we can allow American voters, exercising the most important Constitutional check and balance of all, to have their say in this year’s presidential election. I believe this is what the Constitution requires and what the country needs.”