The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
American presidents have enormous power at their fingertips.
Senators have clear, but limited powers.
Whether a president decides to deploy military force, or wishes to hop on Air Force One with his extended family for a golfing trip at a cost to taxpayers of $3.4 million per trip, presidents can put lives on the line and spend taxpayer dollars at the drop of a hat.
Unfortunately, presidents can abuse their enormous power. Indeed, as the nation has seen in the Ukraine scandal, the evidence of President Trump’s abuse of executive power is overwhelming and shows contempt for the constitutional rule of law that made America great.
Trump’s attitude toward ethics and the law is disconcerting, because as Republican former members of Congress and members of Republicans for Integrity, we took our own oath of office, and the ethical responsibilities that it entailed, with great seriousness.
Arizona’s senators, Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, can cast deciding votes on whether the Senate holds a fair impeachment trial. A trial must include a transparent process of selecting witnesses and evidentiary material that has come to light since the House’s investigative hearings. They must not dodge this responsibility.
The House’s obligation in its “pre-trial” capacity was to gather the facts, similar to what a grand jury does when building a case for trial. Trump’s categorical refusal to comply with document requests or subpoenas makes it necessary for the Senate to proceed with a proper trial.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is planning to short-circuit the Senate trial process outlined in the United States Constitution in order to prevent the American people from learning all relevant facts. He, and perhaps McSally, are on thin ice when it comes to protecting our democratic norms.
In the Senate trial, all senators will be serving as jurors, as laid out by the Constitution. In their capacity as impartial jurors, senators must ensure that the trial is a serious disclosure of the relevant facts about Trump’s abuses of power.
As a Republican former member of Congress, I have been sorely disappointed by my party’s blind embrace of Donald Trump in recent years.
It is irrelevant whether or not we trust President Trump. The United States Senate must give him a chance to clear his name with a full, fair trial. This is his constitutional right … as long as we are able to maintain a constitutional process.
Will McSally choose partisan loyalty to one man, ignoring the evidence and the United States Constitution?
Or will she finally decide to follow the facts and heed the Constitution?
The rule of law is at stake. The fate of our democracy is at risk.
Peter Smith is a Republican former member of Congress who has also served as state senator and lieutenant governor of Vermont. He was founder of the Community College of Vermont and California State University Monterey Bay. He is a member of Republicans for Integrity, a group of Republican former members of the House and Senate who are working to put good governance and our country before partisan politics.