A split verdict in impeachment trial is called for

If Senate Republicans ignore their duty and the will of the American people and block the calling of any witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, a vote on whether to convict and remove the president from office could come as soon as Friday.

And while the outcome seems predestined, with party-line or near party-line votes assuring the threshold of a two-thirds vote for convictions are not reached, the votes by the senators remain of immense importance and will be etched into history.

Representing the people of Connecticut in these verdicts will be Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both Democrats.

Obstruction of Congress

Trump’s across-the-board defiance of the House of Representatives in its impeachment investigation showed arrogant disregard for Congress’ constitutional responsibility to act as a check on the power of the executive branch. It was indicative of Trump’s totalitarian tendencies.

In his pronouncements and those of his legal counsel, the president vowed his administration would not cooperate in any way, neither producing documents nor providing witnesses.

Those executive branch members who testified did so out of a sense of patriotic duty, defying the president’s wishes.

Confronted with this presidential defiance, the House had valid grounds for sending the Obstruction of Congress article of impeachment to the Senate.

At trial, however, attorneys for the president have provided legal grounds for opposing the House subpoenas, as thin as many of those arguments may be.

In their trial memorandum, the president’s lawyers raise legitimate concerns about the potential for the House to “turn any disagreement with the Executive over informational demands into a purported basis for removing the President from office.”

In other words, when it comes to the production of documents and witnesses, if the House says jump, and the president does not respond, “How high?”, can that be grounds for removal from office?

A missed step was an appeal to the courts to enforce the subpoenas. We believe the courts would have required President Trump to provide to the House most of the witnesses and documents it sought. That this process would have been time consuming, delaying the hearings well into a presidential election year, was not grounds for skirting the judicial branch’s role as the arbiter in such disputes.

Had the courts ordered compliance and the president still refused, that would have been not only obstruction of Congress but, more fundamentally, obstruction of justice and reason for conviction and removal from office. But those are not the facts in this instance.

Senators Blumenthal and Murphy should vote to acquit on Obstruction of Congress.

Abuse of Power

The far greater threat to the nation is the allegations against President Trump contained in the Abuse of Power article. It is beyond the reach of the courts to serve as a check on this abuse. It is up to the Senate. It is the kind of executive malfeasance the founders envisioned in providing a mechanism of impeachment and removal.

Despite the refusal of the administration to cooperate in the House investigation and the probable refusal of the Republican majority in the Senate to hear witnesses, the essential facts about Trump’s misconduct have been revealed and they are damning.

For weeks, at the president’s instruction and without legal justification, the administration blocked $391 million in military assistance to Ukraine as a means of pressuring Ukraine’s leaders to announce an embarrassing investigation into Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden, focusing on the younger Biden’s service on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company.

The political motivation was obvious and can be dismissed only by willful ignorance, of which there appears to be plenty among Senate Republicans. If Trump could strongarm Ukraine into casting aspersions on Joe Biden he would have damaged the candidacy of a potential Democratic presidential candidate — arguably his strongest opponent — and improved his own chance for re-election.

This behavior strikes at the foundation of our Republic — self-rule. It is an invitation for other countries to curry favor — or avoid falling in disfavor — with this and future presidents by finding or manufacturing dirt on political opponents or otherwise helping the president politically.

If this behavior becomes acceptable, it would leave our leaders beholden to foreign powers.

Acquitting President Trump of this article of impeachment, we fear, will embolden him to again abuse the power of his office for political self-preservation. Senators Blumenthal and Murphy must send what message they can by voting to convict and remove the president for Abuse of Power.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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