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Tammy Baldwin on Trump's Impeachment and Her Duty as a Senator

Baldwin

Now that the impeachment trial of Donald Trump is ready to start next week in the Senate, the punditry has been working overtime debating all of the questions surrounding this historic occasion. 

What will actually transpire? Will there be witnesses? Will House managers be able to subpoena documents? Will additional evidence, gathered after the House voted to impeach, be allowed? Was Speaker Pelosi right to delay delivery of the articles to the Senate? Will partisanship prevail? What do we expect to hear from the House managers and Trump’s lawyers? How long will it last? And this one I heard today, should Giuliani crony Lev Parnas testify?

Well, I can answer the last question, and that would be a resounding no! While he was riveting in his interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, unfortunately, he’s a little too shady to put on a witness stand. Even though much of what he said was backed-up by witnesses’ testimony during the impeachment hearings, he still is under indictment in the Southern District of New York, and thus soon to be a convicted criminal. 

Now, this bears repeating, but can someone explain why all of these overweight, white, late-middle-aged to old white men are all in this together? Hollywood would never, in a million years, think these characters were legit. Giuliani, Parnas, Igor Fruman, Bill Barr, Mike Pompeo – and a new one, Connecticut congressional candidate Robert Hyde (if you haven’t seen or heard about him, click on the link) — and of course the impeachee, Trump. Is this mob, because that’s what they are, staring down the Senate as we speak? No wonder senators are scared to speak up against this crew. If they do, they’re going to end up with a horse head in their bed.

And, then there is the fearless Speaker Pelosi. What a contrast. She was absolutely right, as she’s been through this entire process, holding those two articles of impeachment in the House for the last few weeks. During the time of the delay, the OMB emails were released, debate about witnesses forced non-committal senators to the carpet, and John Bolton stepped up and agreed to testify if called upon. There is no doubt that Pelosi was the right person at the right time in history. She will go down as a true patriot, great Speaker and great American. She really had the courage to do the right thing, and so did all the Democrats who stepped up and did their jobs.

Now, I’m not sure how to answer many of the questions since we probably all feel as if we are about to step into the unknown. House managers will undoubtedly make a brilliant case. How do Trump's lawyers begin to build a defense when all they’ve done to this point is shoot the messenger and pick apart the process? It’s anyone’s guess what a defense of the impeachment articles will look like. How do you defend yourself when every shred, piece, and bit of information says you're guilty? 

My God, the unbiased, unpartisan Government Accountability Office concluded that the White House budget office violated the law when if froze U.S. military aid to Ukraine. Back in the day this would have devastated and jeopardized an administration. Why is it being ignored by more than half the Senate?

And what will happen when the cameras are turned off and senators debate among themselves? That will happen, probably multiple times, as Republicans seek to disrupt the House managers presentation. Will Republicans be in lock-step, fearful of the Don and his mob? Or will they speak truth to power when the cameras are off? Will McConnell lose his grip on his caucus? Will he even allow for a vote on witnesses? What role will Chief Justice John Roberts, and avowed conservative, play? 

As you can see there are far more questions than answers at this point. So, to help get some clarity, I sought out one of our own voices, and someone who was sworn in as a juror for the trial. Senator Tammy Baldwin, Democrat of Wisconsin, has been serving in the U.S. Senate since 2013. In 1998, she became the first openly gay woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2012, Baldwin became the first openly gay person elected to the United States Senate. Senator Baldwin serves on three committees: Appropriations, Commerce, Science and Transportation and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

I reached out to the senator prior to the start of the trial, to see what she thought lay ahead.

“I believe that we must have a fair and honest impeachment trial in the Senate that includes the release of critical documents and calling relevant witnesses that have firsthand knowledge about President Trump’s conduct and actions,” the senator explained.

To this point, I asked her who she thought should be brought into the trial to testify. “We need to hear from former National Security Advisor John Bolton, Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and senior White House aides Robert Blair and Michael Duffey,” she pointed out. “They can provide direct, first-hand evidence, under oath, about the president’s actions, and they should appear as witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial so we have all the facts and evidence.”

Inevitably, it will mean that some Republicans will have to throw their support behind any measure that’s introduced during the trial that calls for witnesses. It’s anyone’s guess if there will be four (that's how many are needed for 51 votes to pass), five, ten -— or none — who would support the request for witnesses to collaborate all of the information that the House managers will present. If there are no witnesses, and this would be a remarkable fact, it would be the first time in this country’s history that witnesses were not called during an impeachment trial — regardless of who was being impeached. 

That’s not what the founders wanted when they drafted the Constitution and an accompanying oath for impeachment. They wanted a trial in the Senate, with the senators as impartial jurors, and witnesses and evidence to be presented so that the jurors, in this case the senators, had all the facts. And, the senators took a solemn oath, that Chief Justice Roberts administered. That oath says this: "I solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of [Donald John Trump], now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: so help me God."

Will they adhere to the solemnity of the oath and be impartial? Well, we know one of them will be.

“I took an oath of office to support and defend the Constitution. Now every senator has taken an oath to do impartial justice,” Baldwin pointed out. “I take this responsibility very seriously and my judgment on the charges that President Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress will be guided by my duty to put our Constitution first and our country before party, because no one in America, including our president, is above the rule of law.”

Let’s hope that at least 66 other Senators feel the same way. 

John Casey is a PR professional and an adjunct professor at Wagner College in New York City, and a frequent columnist for The Advocate. Follow John on Twitter @johntcaseyjr.

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