(WASHINGTON)—The Senate faces a momentous decision on whether to acquit or convict President Donald Trump in the impeachment trial. We at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) cannot overstate how far-reaching this vote’s impact will be.
In deciding whether to convict Trump, senators will make a statement not only on this president’s actions, but on whether they are committed to preserving Congress’ ability to conduct oversight and hold the executive branch accountable. In light of that, we urge the Senate to convict Trump.
We are certainly disappointed that the House of Representatives did not push harder for testimony from key administration witnesses before transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate, but House investigators faced unprecedented obstruction from the executive branch.
The White House took the extreme and absolutist position that it would not turn over a single piece of paper or produce a single witness in response to congressional requests, and the president instructed executive branch officials not to cooperate. These actions warrant the president’s conviction.
During the trial, the president’s lawyers made little effort to prove Trump had not committed the acts described in the articles of impeachment. Instead, they insisted that even if the president did abuse his office and act corruptly to help his own reelection, this was not impeachable conduct.
The president’s lawyers have also advanced a set of contradictory legal arguments designed to help the president avoid any accountability, both in the impeachment trial and in other ongoing legal matters. While Trump’s lawyers argued in the Senate trial that the courts should weigh in on whether subpoenaed witnesses have to testify, in separate matters, administration lawyers have trotted out dubious and troubling claims that the courts have no jurisdiction to decide whether the president must comply with congressional oversight. The president’s personal lawyers have even claimed in a lawsuit that he possesses absolute immunity while he remains in office and therefore could not be subject to a criminal investigation, let alone indictment. Collectively, these attempts to dodge accountability make it all the more important that Congress act as a check on the executive branch and convict the president over his extraordinary push to obstruct Congress.
By voting not to consider additional witnesses or evidence in the trial, the Senate is complicit in the president’s effort to break our constitutional system. In failing to take the time to find the truth—especially in the case of former national security adviser John Bolton, who stated he would testify—and hold the president accountable, the Senate abdicated one of its most important constitutional responsibilities and ceded breathtaking power to the executive branch.
Over the course of his presidency, Trump has persistently eroded the system of checks and balances by obstructing Congress and pushing for absolute immunity in the legal system. If senators fail to hold him accountable now, how can Congress have any hope of ensuring that no future president would abuse their office in this way?
To date, we have heard lawmakers from both sides of the aisle state that Trump’s actions were out of line, but it appears many don't want to risk political capital to hold him accountable. If these senators truly believe the president’s actions were not so bad that they justify removing him from office, it is incumbent upon them to propose a consequence sufficient to remedy the damage Trump’s actions have caused. Yet thus far, we have not seen any alternative accountability measures proposed.
So Congress has left itself one option to ensure that the president does not inflict further damage on our democratic system: conviction in the impeachment trial.
We urge the Senate to convict Trump. Doing so is crucial to saving the system of checks and balances laid out in the Constitution.
Media Contacts: Danielle Brian, Executive Director at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), [email protected] or (202) 347-1122; or Caitlin MacNeal, Media Relations Manager at POGO, [email protected]or (202) 347-1122