January 23, 2020

In case you missed the live stream we had on the site yesterday, I wanted to highlight the first few minutes of Rep. Adam Schiff's opening statement at the Senate impeachment trial Wednesday because it was an eloquent and passionate argument for why impeachment is necessary, and why it's doubly necessary to impeach Donald Trump.

He opened up with a description of Trump written by Alexander Hamilton:

“When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’”

And from there, he was off and running. This is only four minutes. Schiff and his team presented arguments in narrative form for eight hours Wednesday, and will be doing the same thing again today.

Here's the rest of the transcript of this clip:

Those words were written by Alexander Hamilton in a letter to President George Washington, at the height of the Panic of 1792, a financial credit crisis that shook our young nation. Hamilton was responding to sentiments relayed to Washington as he traveled the country, that America, in the face of that crisis, might descend from “a republican form of Government,” plunging instead into “that of a monarchy.”

The Framers of our Constitution worried then—as we worry today—that a leader could come to power not to carry out the will of the people that he was elected to represent, but to pursue his own interests. They feared that a president could subvert our democracy by abusing the awesome power of his office for his own personal or political gain.

And so they devised a remedy as powerful as the evil it was meant to combat: Impeachment.

As the centuries have passed, our Founders have achieved an almost mythic character. We are aware of their flaws, certainly, some very painful and pronounced indeed. And yet, when it came to the drafting of a new system of government, never seen before and with no guarantee it could succeed, we cannot help but be in awe of their genius, their prescience, even, vindicated time and time again.

Still, and maybe because of their brilliance and the brilliance of their words, we find, year after year, it more difficult to imagine them as human beings. This is no less true of Alexander Hamilton, notwithstanding his own return to celebrity.

But they were human beings, they understood human frailties even as they exhibited them, they could appreciate, just as we can, how power can corrupt, and even as we struggle to understand how the Framers might have responded to Presidential misconduct of the kind and character we are here to try, we should not imagine for one moment that they lacked basic common sense, or refuse to apply it ourselves.

They knew what it was like to live under a despot, and they risked their lives to be free of it. They knew they were creating an enormously powerful executive, and they knew they needed to constrain it. They did not intend for the power of impeachment to be used frequently, or over mere matters of policy, but they also put it in the constitution for a reason. For a man who would subvert the interests of our nation to pursue his own interests. For a man who would seek to perpetuate himself in office by inviting foreign interference and cheating in an election. For a man who would be disdainful of constitutional limit, ignoring or defeating the other branches of government and their co-equal powers. For a man who would believed that the constitution gave him the right to do anything he wanted and practiced in the art of deception. For a man who believed himself above the law and beholden to no one. For a man, in short, who would be a king.

We are here today—in this hallowed chamber, undertaking this solemn action for only the third time in history—because Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States, has acted precisely as Hamilton and his contemporaries had feared. President Trump solicited foreign interference in our democratic elections, abusing the power of his office by seeking help from abroad to improve his reelection prospects at home. And when he was caught, he used the powers of that office to obstruct the investigation into his own misconduct.

To implement his corrupt scheme, President Trump pressured the President of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into two discredited allegations that would benefit President Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign. When the Ukrainian president did not immediately assent, President Trump withheld two official acts to induce the Ukrainian leader to comply—a head of state meeting and military funding. Both were of great consequence to Ukraine and to our own national interest and security, but one looms largest: President Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to a strategic partner at war with Russia to secure foreign help with his reelection, in other words, to cheat.

In this way, the President used official state powers—available only to him and unavailable to any political opponent—to advantage himself in our democratic election. His scheme was undertaken for a simple but corrupt reason: to help him win reelection in 2020. But the effect of his scheme was to undermine our free and fair elections and place our national security at risk.

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