Washington, DC, February 13, 2021 – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) released the following statement:
Early this week, and at the outset of the trial, my brilliant colleague and the lead House manager, Jamie Raskin, quoted from a Capitol Police officer who defended the Congress against the violent mob and failed insurrection on January 6th. After watching marauders with confederate flags and Auschwitz T-Shirts who hurled racial epithets at him, he asked, plaintively, ‘Is this America?’
A majority of the Senators voted guilty, fifty-seven Senators, and answered that question: no it is not, at least, it is not the America we aspire to be. But in the vote to acquit by the other forty-three, in the branch of government meant to protect us from a dangerous demagogue who would be king, we can see that a lack of political courage by one party alone is the biggest impediment to achieving our aspirations as a nation.
It has been observed by many that the vote in the second impeachment trial, like the first, would have been different if done in secret and by secret ballot. This is no doubt true, but a vote of such consequence without accountability is not how a democracy must function. Rather it is a demonstration of how much this vote reflected not the weight of the evidence or what the constitution requires, but political cowardice.
House Managers demonstrated overwhelmingly, through a case that was methodical, seamless and incontrovertible, that Donald Trump incited an insurrection to stop the Joint Session of Congress in a last ditch effort to hold onto power. Managers also showed that defense arguments over the First Amendment or the jurisdiction to try a former president were so replete with ignorance of the constitutional text, history and application as to be frivolous.
This impeachment was always going to come down to whether members of the House and Senate had the courage to stand up to a president who sought to enlist a foreign power to smear his opponent and when that failed, lied endlessly about the election, sought to coerce local and state election officials to cheat by ‘finding’ votes and overturning results, and incited violence against them when his other efforts failed.
The question before Senators was therefore less about the clear facts and law, less about whether they would find him guilty or not guilty, and far more about whether they had the guts to live their oaths. Too many did not. As a result, America remains at risk that this man who summoned the demon of bigotry and hatred and lies in service of his cause, may yet continue to bedevil us. And if he does, if he runs for office again and employs the same tools of lies, division, incitement and hate, who can say that they could not see it coming? No one.
So where does that leave us, at the conclusion of Donald J. Trump’s second impeachment trial? It leaves us with a Republican party that is still in his thrall, still subject to his whim and still intimidated into his service, more cult of his personality and his conspiracies than home for any ideas or ideology. American democracy has always depended on two functional parties, but for the foreseeable future, we will have only one.
And yet we press on. The work is too important, a virus still plagues us, families are still suffering and they urgently need our help. But the work of shoring up our democracy is more vital than ever. Brick by brick, we must strengthen its foundation with reforms that protect the independence of our justice system, restore congressional oversight, protect against abuse of the presidential power, in short, by enacting into law norms that we thought were inviolate, but were violated and with impunity.
Even with the result today, we must not lose hope, or belief, in this country. America was built by those we dared to believe in something never done before, a government of its people, and capable of making itself into a more perfect union. It will be rebuilt with the same faith.