Senator Tom CottoN Remarks on Voting Against Articles of Impeachment

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) submitted remarks into the Congressional Record announcing his intent to vote against both articles of impeachment. The text of those remarks in its entirety may be found below.

I will soon join a majority of the Senate in voting down the articles of impeachment brought against the president by his partisan opponents. The time has come to end a spectacle that has elevated the obsessions of Washington’s political class over the concerns and interests of the American people.

This round of impeachment is just the latest Democratic scheme to bring down the president. I say “this round” because House Democrats have tried to impeach President Trump at least four times. First, for being mean to football players. Then for his transgender military policy. Next for his immigration policy. And those are just the impeachment attempts. Along the way, Democrats also proclaimed that Robert Mueller would drive the president from office. Some even speculated that the vice president and the cabinet would invoke the 25th Amendment to seize power from the president—a theory that sounds more like Resistance fan fiction than reality.

What’s behind this fanaticism? Simply put, the Democrats have never accepted that Donald Trump won the 2016 election, and they will never forgive him, either.

It’s time for the Democrats to get some perspective. They’re claiming that we ought to impeach and remove a president from office for the first time in our history for briefly pausing aid to Ukraine and rescheduling a meeting with the Ukrainian president, allegedly in return for a corruption inquiry. But the aid was released after a few weeks and the meeting occurred, yet the inquiry did not—even though, I would add, it remains justified by the Biden family’s obvious, glaring conflict of interest in Ukraine.

Just how badly have the Democrats lost perspective? The House managers have argued that we ought to impeach and remove the president because his meeting with the Ukrainian president happened in New York, not Washington.

When most Americans think about why a president ought to be impeached and removed from office for the first time in our history, I suspect that pausing aid to Ukraine for a few weeks is pretty far down the list. That’s not exactly “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” And that’s especially true when we’re just months away from the election that will let Americans make their own choice. Indeed, Americans are already voting to select the president’s Democratic challenger. Why not let the voters decide whether the president ought to be removed?

The Democrats’ real answer is that they’re afraid they’ll lose again in 2020, so they designed impeachment to hurt the president before the election. As one Democratic congressman said last year, “I’m concerned that if we don’t impeach this president, he will get reelected.” Or as Minority Leader Chuck Schumer claimed earlier this month, impeachment is a “win-win” for Democrats; either it will lead to the president’s defeat or it will hurt enough Republican senators in tough races to hand Democrats the majority. Or maybe both.

The political purpose of impeachment was clear from the manner in which House Democrats conducted their proceedings. If impeachment was indeed the high-minded, somber affair that Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed, House Democrats would’ve taken their time to get all the facts from all relevant witnesses. Instead, they barreled ahead with a slipshod and secretive process, denying the president’s due-process rights, gathering testimony behind closed doors, leaking their findings selectively to the press, and ignoring constitutional concerns such as executive privilege.

The impeachment vote itself contradicted the pretensions of House Democrats. Speaker Pelosi said last year that she wouldn’t support impeachment unless there was something “so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan” that it demanded a response. Likewise, Congressman Jerry Nadler said that the House had to “persuade enough of the opposition party voters” before it voted to impeach. Democrats failed on both counts. Indeed, the only bipartisan aspect of the whole proceeding is that both Republicans and Democrats voted against impeaching the president. Not a single Republican voted for either article of impeachment in the House, resulting in the first party-line impeachment of a president in our nation’s history.

So instead of doing their work, House Democrats simply impeached the president and declared their job complete. Yet after piously declaring the urgency of this impeachment, they waited a month to send the articles over to the Senate. Maybe they had to wait for the gold-encrusted souvenir pens to arrive for Speaker Pelosi’s “signing ceremony.”

And once in the Senate, the political theater continued. The House Democrats repeatedly asserted a bizarre logical fallacy: their case was both “overwhelming” and in need of more evidence. Yet we heard from seventeen witnesses—all hand-selected by the House Democrats—and received more than 28,000 pages of documents. The House could’ve pursued more witnesses during its impeachment, yet it instead chose to rush ahead rather than subpoena those witnesses or litigate issues in federal court. In fact, when one of the House’s potential witnesses asked a federal court to rule on the issue, the House withdrew its subpoena and asked to dismiss the case. The House Democrats complain that the courts would’ve taken too long, yet they expected the Senate to delay our work to finish theirs. And in a final, remarkable stunt, Congressman Adam Schiff suggested that we depose witnesses—only his, of course, not the president’s—with Chief Justice Roberts ruling on all questions of evidence and privilege, dragging him into this political spectacle.

But the curtain will soon come down on this political theater. The Senate will perform the role intended for us by the Founders, of providing the “cool and deliberate sense of the community,” as it says in Federalist 63, over and against an inflamed and transient House majority. Were we to do otherwise, were the Senate to acquiesce to the House, this process might have dragged on for many weeks, even for months, shutting down the normal legislative business of Congress even longer than it already has.

Even worse, by legitimizing the House’s flawed, partisan impeachment, we would be setting a grave precedent for the future. Just consider how many times we heard about the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson during this trial. The Founders didn’t intend impeachment as a tool to check the executive over policy disagreements or out of political spite. And the House has never before used impeachment in this way. Not when the Democrats claimed that President George W. Bush misled the country into the Iraq War or when President Barack Obama broke the law by releasing terrorists from Guantanamo Bay in return for the release of an American deserter, Bowe Bergdahl. Indeed, the Republican House did not impeach President Obama for, yes, withholding aid from Ukraine for three full years.

No House in the future should lead the country down this path again. By refusing to do this House’s dirty work, the Senate is stopping this dangerous precedent and preserving the Founders’ understanding that Congress ought to restrain the executive through the many checks and balances still at our disposal. More fundamentally, we’re preserving the most important check of all—an election. It’s time to teach that lesson to this House and to all future Houses, of both parties.

Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff have failed, but the American people lost. Now it’s time to get back to doing the people’s business.