Why all Americans should favor an impeachment trial in the Senate | Deseret News

This article was originally published by the Deseret News.

According to the latest Politico/Morning Consult Poll conducted Dec. 6-8, the American people are evenly divided regarding whether President Donald Trump should be impeached. That poll reveals 51% support impeaching the president, with 49% supporting conviction and removal from office. In turn, 42% of Americans oppose impeachment. A mere but critically important 8% remain undecided.


Despite rigid partisan differences that have led to a circuslike spectacle in the House of Representatives, all sides have one thing in common: They publicly have expressed their desire to have a fair trial in the Senate.


There are two prevalent narratives. Half of the American public believe that the president undermined our democratic process by using his office to help ensure his reelection in 2020, an act that would constitute an impeachable offense, and 42% believe that the president was seeking to root out corruption in the Ukraine to ensure the wise use of tax dollars.


Understandably, Trump and his supporters believe that the proceedings in the House have been unfair. He “wants a trial.” Only 29% of Americans believe the president “acted appropriately,” with 16% indicating that he “acted inappropriately, but Congress shouldn’t impeach him and remove him from office.” The president’s approval numbers are very low, with 58% disapproving and only 39% approving of his overall performance, even though a strong majority approve of his handling of the economy. Trump is justifiably concerned about the implications of impeachment for his reelection.


The president viewed the House proceedings as a “witch hunt” and instructed those closest to refuse to testify in the House proceedings. He has repeatedly asserted that those with firsthand knowledge of what transpired — Rudy Giuliani, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others working in his administration — would testify that he used his office to further his administration’s foreign policy and not for personal political gain. The president has added that he would personally like to testify, following President Bill Clinton’s example in the last impeachment trial. Such testimony from all parties can help us get to the truth.


Trump wants and should be given a fair opportunity to prove he was simply acting as a good steward over American tax dollars to eliminate corruption. The Republican-led Senate, with Chief Justice Roberts, a Republican appointee, presiding, should be able to allay any concerns the president has about fairness.


The Democrats should also favor a trial in the Senate. They have appeared to many Americans to be acting in a highly partisan and unfair manner in handling the hearings in the House. If the proceedings shift to the Republican-led Senate, the Republicans will be on the hot seat — they will have to demonstrate to the American people that hearings in the Senate will be fair to all parties and will be used to pursue the truth, not mere partisan political ends.

All members of the Senate have an interest in building the confidence of the American people in Congress as an institution, which can only be done by respectful hearings designed to pursue the truth in a nonpartisan way consistent with each Senator’s oath to support the Constitution.


The Democrats have presented evidence, most of which has necessarily been indirect, that the president was acting for personal political gain and undermined our democratic process. They have also repeatedly argued that the president obstructed justice by failing to permit those with firsthand knowledge to testify. If those witnesses are examined and cross-examined before the Senate, we are more likely to get to the truth, something the Democrats have repeatedly emphasized they are pursuing.


Finally, the undecided 8%, of whom I am a part, want a fair trial and the truth. We are losing our patience and are appalled by the partisan bickering in the House, which reminds us of a group of angry teenagers who want to win an argument more than they want to get to the truth. This pandering to respective political bases has enabled Republicans and Democrats alike to fill their campaign chests and help secure their party’s nomination in the next election. It might be well, however, to remind members of Congress, in the Senate and the House, that the undecided 8% may ultimately dictate the results of elections at all levels in 2020.


At a time when Americans are deeply divided, it is refreshing that Trump and his supporters, the Democrats and their supporters, and the undecided publicly agree that we need fair trial designed to pursue the truth. The verdict, however, is out: Will senators put aside their partisan ways, provide for a fair trial, pursue the truth and abide by their oath to support the Constitution?

© 2020 by Rodney K. Smith