“In both previous impeachment trials, the Senate had witnesses testify,” said Senator Van Hollen (D-MD). “In the upcoming trial of President Trump, Democrats have proposed that the Senate hear from four witnesses with knowledge of President Trump’s actions. We are also asking the Senate to request key documents that the President has refused to provide. So far, Senator McConnell has rejected these reasonable requests for witnesses and documents, despite the fact that just this week new information has come to light showing that these witnesses and documents are directly relevant to the impeachment trial.”
Washington, D.C. – As we begin the new year, Senator Van Hollen delivers the Weekly Democratic Address on the importance of holding a fair and honest bipartisan impeachment trial in the Senate while also getting work done for the American people. Senator Van Hollen begins by discussing the need for both witnesses and documents to be a part of the Senate impeachment trial, noting that over the last few weeks critical information has emerged that has bolstered the case for a fair impeachment trial, including recently revealed emails from Michael Duffy, a witness requested by Senate Democrats, that show the order to withhold aid from the Ukraine came at the clear direction of President Trump. Senator Van Hollen also debunked the Republican talking point that conducting the Senate’s oversight duty is distracting from legislative business, pointing out that it is Leader McConnell who is obstructing votes on hundreds of bipartisan House-passed bills including legislation on background checks, voting rights, and raising the minimum wage.
Senator Van Hollen’s remarks as delivered follow:
“Happy new year to all.
“We start this new year at an important moment for our nation. For only the third time in our history, the Senate is preparing to consider the impeachment of a President. The Constitution gives us this solemn duty – to assess the evidence as presented by the House of Representatives and by the President and render a fair judgment. The Constitution and the procedures of the Senate require each Senator to take an oath to do ‘impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.’
“Senators have a very special role as both judge and jury in an impeachment trial. We can vote by a simple majority — 51 senators — to call witnesses and request documents. In both previous impeachment trials, the Senate had witnesses testify. In the upcoming trial of President Trump, Democrats have proposed that the Senate hear from four witnesses with knowledge of President Trump’s actions. We are also asking the Senate to request key documents that the President has refused to provide.
“So far, Senator McConnell has rejected these reasonable requests for witnesses and documents, despite the fact that just this week new information has come to light showing that these witnesses and documents are directly relevant to the impeachment trial. Newly-revealed emails, which the Trump Administration tried to keep secret, shed light on the key roles played by White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former National Security Advisor John Bolton, and top Administration officials Michael Duffey and Robert Blair. These emails reveal that just 91 minutes after President Trump had his call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, Mr. Duffey emailed Department of Defense officials to inform them that the Administration would be formally withholding military assistance for Ukraine – taxpayer dollars that were allocated on a bipartisan basis by Congress to assist Ukraine’s efforts to fight Russia.
“Yesterday we learned about emails sent by Michael Duffy — emails that the Trump Administration tried to hide —that provided additional evidence that the order to hold up assistance to Ukraine came directly from the President. Defense Department officials repeatedly raised concern about the legality of the hold. Why is the President so desperate to prevent these individuals from testifying under penalty of perjury?
“Make no mistake: If Republican senators vote to block the Senate from considering additional evidence from these witness and documents, they will be complicit in rigging the trial and in the cover-up. New facts will certainly come to light — it is only a matter of when. Do they want to be remembered as senators who violated their duty under the Constitution to conduct a fair and impartial trial?
“The House has presented overwhelming evidence to support its two articles of impeachment – Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. But the Senate trial is about hearing the cases on both sides – including hearing from those who were directly involved – before rendering a final verdict. President Trump has said he’d like to have witnesses – and if he has evidence to rebut the facts established by the House, the Senate should hear it and render a final verdict after all the evidence is in.
“You may also hear Republicans argue that we need to rush a trial to get back to legislative business. First, let’s remember that impeachment is our Constitutional responsibility — and we can have a trial that is both speedy and fair. Second, as we have seen in the House of Representatives, it is possible to conduct robust oversight and legislate at the same time. In fact, the week before the House voted on impeachment, they passed a very important bill to reduce the costs of prescription drugs.
“The House has actually passed over 300 bills that Senator McConnell has refused to bring up for a vote in the Senate — including hundreds with bipartisan support. The House has acted to expand background checks for gun purchases, get big money out of politics, strengthen voting rights, raise the minimum wage for the first time in more than a decade, protect employee pensions, and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
“Senator McConnell has not only blocked consideration of these critical measures, he has bragged about his obstruction, nicknaming himself the “Grim Reaper.” So let’s not fall for his claim that he suddenly wants to get to work on these initiatives that are important to the American people. To date, he has made no commitment to take up any of these bills whether or not there is an impeachment trial.
“As the Senate discharges its Constitutional duties – whether by conducting an impeachment trial or passing legislation – it should never be an instrument of a president, regardless of party. We should never outsource our judgement and our votes to any White House. We serve the American people, and must render justice fairly and honorably at this critical time in our history.”