Three days after the U.S. Senate voted against hearing from witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, Sen. Ben Cardin convened a Feb. 3 news conference at the UB School of Law to share his thoughts about the impeachment process, the Trump presidency, and political discourse in general.
Now that the evidentiary record is closed, he said, his conclusion is that “The U.S. Senate failed in its constitutional responsibilities.” In denying the House managers the opportunity to present live witnesses, Cardin said, the Republican majority tainted the process. “I don’t think any judge would conclude that what happened in the Senate constituted a fair trial,” he said.
This outcome casts a shadow not only on the Senate, but also on President Trump’s legacy, Cardin added. “If he is acquitted, there will always be a question as to the legitimacy of the trial,” he said.
Cardin contrasted the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton–in which the president and his top officials testified and shared White House documents, and the president expressed remorse for his wrongful actions–with the current impeachment, which has been characterized by an administration determined to withhold evidence and block witnesses from testifying, and a president who shows no remorse, maintaining that his conduct toward the Ukrainian government was, in fact, “perfect.”
The senator discussed the two articles of impeachment presented by the House managers and explained why he will vote in favor of conviction on both. He quoted the president’s own lawyer, Jay Sekulow, who argued to the Senate jurors, “You cannot view this case in a vacuum.” Said Cardin: “I couldn’t agree more!” The obstruction of justice conduct outlined in the Mueller report established a pattern of presidential malfeasance that has only continued, he said. “We see the president has a pattern of misrepresenting the facts,” he said.
As to whether the president’s abuse of power rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors required for an impeachment comviction, Cardin was emphatic. “Abuse of power is abuse of trust,” he said. “To me, that’s the exact circumstance the Framers of the Constitution were trying to guard against.”
Asked about additional remedies available to Congress, now that impeachment appears to have failed, Cardin said the House has no choice but to continue its aggressive oversight of the president. “The only accountability for the president is in the Congress,” he said. “No branch has absolute power. We do not have a monarch here in the United States.”