Carper floor speech on impeachment vote
Sen. Tom Carper voted to convict President Donald J. Trump on two articles of impeachment charging the President with abuse of power and obstruction of justice. Ahead of today’s vote, Senator Carper delivered remarks on the Senate floor.
“Our Constitution has weathered a Civil War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Watergate, a Great Depression, a Great Recession, death of presidents, assassination of presidents, and, yes, impeachment of presidents. Our Constitution will weather this storm, too,” said Senator Carper.
“But a vote to acquit this president does not exonerate this president. A vote to acquit effectively legalizes the corruption of our elections – the very foundation of our democratic process. A vote to acquit says to this president, and all who follow, that you may use the powers of the office to solicit foreign interference in our elections. A vote to acquit is the realization of our Founders worst fears—leaving a president with the impulses of a king unchecked by the other co-equal branches of government and undeterred by the prospect of impeachment.”
Full text, as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. President, 233 years ago, our Founders gathered in Philadelphia – just a few miles from Delaware. Eleven years earlier, we had declared our independence from the British Crown, the most powerful empire in the world. Despite long odds, David overcame Goliath, and we won our independence. But would the government of this new nation endure?
“When the Founders gathered in Philadelphia that summer of 1787, they began debating a new form of government. At times, the differences—between our Founders, Northern states and Southern states, small states and large states—seemed irreconcilable. However, a Great Compromise was eventually reached, and an intricate system of checks and balances was written into a new governing document – the Constitution of the United States of America.
“Nebraska Senator William Jennings Bryan once remarked, ‘Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice.’ Our Constitution has endured longer than any other on Earth in large part because we did not leave our destiny to chance. And today, our Constitution remains the longest lasting constitution on Earth.
“The Founders, despite their many disagreements, made the crucial choice that this new Constitution would not lead to the creation an all-powerful king. Instead, the Constitution created three separate, co-equal branches of government—an executive, a legislature, and a judiciary. This ingenious system would ensure that a future president with the impulses of a king could be restrained by the other two branches.The Constitution also provided another backstop against abuses from a future president who committed ‘Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.’ That constitutional backstop is called impeachment.
“As we consider the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, I want to ask my colleagues to remember that, while we are here today because of the conduct of one man, the Constitution that guides us through these choppy waters some 233 years later is the triumph of wisdom of many men. We are here because patriots like Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton and many others lived under the harsh rule of a king and fought for the freedom to govern themselves. Our Constitution gives the House of Representatives the ‘sole power’ of impeachment, while the Senate has the “sole power” to conduct a trial in the event the House impeaches a president.
“We are now at the end of the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump. It is not the trial that many of us had hoped for. We had hoped for a fair trial. The American people deserve a fair trial. A fair trial has witnesses. A fair trial has evidence. I don’t believe that history will be kind to those who have – and continue to – prevent the truth from coming to light during this trial. The American people deserve to know the truth. As does this jury—the members of the United States Senate.
“President Lincoln once said: ‘I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis.’ I believe the same can be said of the United States Senate. If given the truth, we, too, can be depended upon to meet this crisis and do the right thing. I believe the truth will not only set us free, but keep us free.
“We now have an obligation to consider the evidence presented by the House Managers and the president’s defense team relating to two Articles of Impeachment—Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. The House Managers have presented a case that is the result of a three-month investigation, during which the House Intelligence Committee issued scores of subpoenas for documents and testimony.
“Donald Trump obstructed this process from the start. No president—not even President Nixon during Watergate—has ever issued an order to direct a witness to refuse to cooperate in an impeachment inquiry. As a result of this unprecedented obstruction, the Trump Administration did not provide a single document to the House of Representatives. Fortunately, though, 17 brave public servants—many of whom risked their careers—came forward to testify under oath. Here is what we learned from them.
“Donald Trump used the powers of his office to pressure the government of Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election on his behalf and to smear his most-feared political opponent, Vice President Joe Biden.
“Donald Trump did this by illegally withholding funds appropriated by Congress to help an ally, Ukraine, in the midst of a hot war against Russia. Donald Trump did this by withholding a coveted White House meeting from the newly-elected President Zelensky of Ukraine.
“He illegally withheld the funds and the meeting until President Zelensky merely announced sham investigations involving Vice President Biden and a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election. And, when he got caught in the midst of this corrupt scheme, President Trump even called for other foreign nations to interfere on his behalf in the upcoming 2020 election.
“While I believe the evidence against Donald Trump is overwhelming, like any criminal defendant, he is entitled to a robust defense. Many of us listened carefully to the president’s defense team over the course of this two week trial.
“Not once did the president’s defense team rebut the facts of this case, defend their client’s character, or call an eyewitness who could contradict the assertions made by witnesses who testified under oath.
“Not once did we hear the president’s defense team say, ‘Of course the President wouldn’t use the weight of the federal government to smear his political rival.’
“Instead, we heard distractions, conspiracy theories and unfounded smears about Vice President Biden and his family. Instead, we heard a far-fetched legal theory that presidents cannot be impeached for soliciting foreign interference in our elections if they believe their own re-election is in the national interest.
“I believe the House Managers proved their case, and there now appears to be some bipartisan agreement that the president abused his power. Still, does this merit conviction and removal from office?
“Our Constitution, agreed to in 1787, sought to establish a ‘more perfect Union,’ not a ‘perfect Union.’ The hard work toward a more perfect Union did not end when Delaware became the First State to ratify the Constitution on December 7, 1787. In truth, it had only just begun. We went on to enact the Bill of Rights, abolish slavery, give women the right to vote, and much more.
“Throughout our history, each generation of Americans has sought to improve our system of government because, after all, it is not perfect. In the words of Senator Bryan, we do not leave our destiny to chance. We make it a matter of choice. And we choose to make this a more perfect Union, a reflection that the hard work begun in Philadelphia in 1787 is never truly complete.
“Our Constitution has weathered a Civil War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Watergate, a Great Depression, a Great Recession, death of presidents, assassination of presidents, and, yes, impeachment of presidents. Our Constitution will weather this storm, too. But a vote to acquit this president does not exonerate this president.
“A vote to acquit effectively legalizes the corruption of our elections – the very foundation of our democratic process. A vote to acquit says to this president, and all who follow, that you may use the powers of the office to solicit foreign interference in our elections.
“A vote to acquit is the realization of our Founders worst fears—leaving a president with the impulses of a king unchecked by the other co-equal branches of government and undeterred by the prospect of impeachment.
“Donald Trump violated his oath. He broke the law. He attempted to cheat in the 2020 election, and, when he got caught, left little doubt that he will cheat again. That is not the conduct we expect of our president. That is the conduct of someone who believes that he is above the law. Donald Trump is our president, not our king.
“Colleagues, if our destiny is to remain the most enduring democracy in the history of the world, we must not leave this matter to chance. We must choose to preserve and protect our Constitution. And to do so, we must convict Donald Trump on both articles of impeachment and remove him from office.
“As he left the Constitutional Convention in 1787, a group of citizens approached Benjamin Franklin and asked, ‘What do we have? A monarchy or a republic?’ Franklin answered, ‘A Republic, if you can keep it.’
“Today, I pose the same questions to our colleagues. What do we have? A monarchy or a republic?
“I leave you with my answer. We have a Republic, and I intend to keep it.”