It must have been a crushing burden for Senate Republicans, having to sit silently and listen to the substantial evidence justifying the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Whether to remove a sitting president is only the most important question many will face in their lifetimes. Didn't they owe it to the nation to carve out just a few extra minutes for testimony from a direct eyewitness who was in the room while Trump was abusing his office?
Apparently, they just couldn't be bothered, voting 51 to 49 Friday not to call witnesses. Rather than inform themselves of facts and 100% first-hand witness testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton, they opted for blindness and ignorance. This after weeks of dismissing the Democratic case against Trump as being based on hearsay and second-hand sourcing.
The idea of securing a majority vote just to hear testimony was never meant to indicate a willingness to convict Trump and remove him from office. It was merely a bid to give senators the fullest possible picture of Trump's actions from someone who was in the room when the president articulated his motives for withholding $391 million in military aid from Ukraine.
Senators cannot claim to have cast an informed vote to acquit Trump without first having heard that testimony.
Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a key Republican swing vote on this question, stated Thursday: "There is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven." In other words, yes, Trump did abuse his office and, yes, Trump did obstruct Congress — exactly as the House impeachment articles charged. Even so, Alexander reasoned, that's not enough to remove a sitting president.
By refusing to correct Trump's behavior, the Senate sends a dangerous message to all future presidents — Democrats and Republicans — that this kind of abuse and obstruction is OK. It is an open invitation to this president and his successors: Keep pushing the envelope. Keep testing the boundaries.
Trust us, they will, knowing that a weak and submissive legislative branch will not stand in their way.
It doesn't have to end this way. Congress can still deliver unequivocal messages to ensure Trump doesn't mistake this for exoneration. Republicans can and should join Democrats in a strongly worded censure resolution outlining what the president did wrong and why his actions deserve loud condemnation.
Another strong message can be conveyed with silence — resounding, deafening silence — from the moment Trump enters the House chamber to deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday. Don't clap. Don't cheer. Don't interrupt his remarks with standing ovations. Let the man squirm as members of Congress deprive him of the one thing he desires most: adulation on prime-time television.
If Senate Republicans won't convict Trump, the least they can do is wipe the smirk off his face.
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