On Wednesday, three presidential candidates voted for the conviction and removal of the president they intended to replace. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) arguably should have recused themselves from the trial because they have a personal stake in removing Trump from office.
In the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, Sen. Benjamin Wade (R-Ohio) served as president pro tempore of the Senate. Historians have suggested that the Senate voted against convicting Johnson in part because — as the law then stood — Wade would have become acting president. Wade ran for the presidency that year but lost the Republican nomination to former Union General Ulysses S. Grant.
This is the dubious precedent for Klobuchar, Sanders, and Warren. While Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) voted to convict President Bill Clinton, he did so months before he announced his candidacy in the 2000 presidential election.
These senators’ decision not only to participate in the trial but to vote for the removal of Trump during an election year is perverse. This vote is extremely self-serving, and it suggests that these candidates do not trust the voters to make their own decisions in the general election. The vote should be a black mark on their records — both in the primary process and in the general election.
After the Senate voted to acquit Trump, the three stooges took to Twitter to lament the fact that they still have a Republican opponent in the 2020 race.
“It is a somber day for our country. As Senators, we are representatives of the American people and it’s our duty to protect and defend the Constitution. The President leveraged the power of his office for personal gain and the choice before us is clear. No one is above the law,” Klobuchar tweeted. “History will remember that the majority in this body did not seek out the evidence and instead decided that the President’s actions did not even require a second look.”
History will remember that the majority in this body did not seek out the evidence and instead decided that the President’s actions did not even require a second look.
— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) February 5, 2020
“Donald Trump pressured a foreign government to interfere in our election. He undermined our diplomatic relationships and put our national security at risk. He exploits our government for his personal gain—and Republicans just voted to protect him,” Warren tweeted. While Democrats have argued that Trump’s decision to ask Ukraine’s president to investigate potential corruption involving Joe Biden interfered in the election, they have not alleged anything that would “put our national security at risk.”
Perhaps ironically, Warren framed her vote to remove Trump as a fight against corruption, even while she stands to gain from the president’s ouster.
These are hard times. People are frustrated and angry—but we must not be discouraged. Now more than ever, we must choose courage and hope over fear. Now is our moment to fight back. We have defeated corruption before, and we will do it again.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 5, 2020
Sanders insisted that it gave him “no pleasure” to vote to remove his political opponent, and then argued that the Republican Senate’s decision not to subpoena more witnesses — after featuring exhaustive video clips from the House Democrats’ witnesses — involved “undercutting the rule of law.”
“Today, I voted to convict President Trump on two articles of impeachment. It gives me no pleasure to conclude that he is guilty of the offenses laid out in the trial. Sadly, we have a president who sees himself as above the law and is ignorant or indifferent to the Constitution,” the senator tweeted. “My greater concern is if Republicans acquit President Trump by undercutting the very rule of law. That will truly be remembered as a sad and dangerous moment in the history of our country.”
Today, I voted to convict President Trump on two articles of impeachment. It gives me no pleasure to conclude that he is guilty of the offenses laid out in the trial.
Sadly, we have a president who sees himself as above the law and is ignorant or indifferent to the Constitution.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 5, 2020
As Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) explained in his remarks on Tuesday, Trump’s actions involving Ukraine do not demonstrate that the president is “ignorant or indifferent to the Constitution.” Furthermore, former President Barack Obama did what Trump is accused of having done — held up foreign aid to Ukraine and investigated his political opponent — and at a far worse scale.
Trump temporarily delayed lethal aid to Ukraine, but Obama never sent Ukraine weapons to defend itself against Russia. Trump asked Ukraine to investigate potential corruption, but Obama’s administration launched an investigation into Trump’s campaign on the pretext that Russians were attempting to infiltrate it — without notifying Donald Trump!
Democrats have been chomping at the bit to impeach Trump ever since his inauguration, and they made crucial mistakes when they finally pulled the trigger. They settled for a weak case, denied the president key due process protections, rushed the vote to impeach and then delayed the Senate trial for nearly a month, and impeached him for threatening to challenge House subpoenas in court.
Then the very candidates who have to convince the American people to vote for them instead of Trump decided they would unilaterally make that decision for the American people, voting to remove him from office. Americans should remember this in November, especially if Klobuchar, Sanders, or Warren is the Democratic nominee.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.