A Profile in Courage: Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama): A Red State Democrat Votes for Conviction of Donald J. Trump
(In his 5 February 2020 statement before the Senate, Senator Doug Jones insists that his vote to convict Donald J. Trump in the Impeachment Trial was not a Profile in Courage, but the webmaster disagrees – his decision is courage personified.
You see, Senator Jones, a Democratic Senator in Alabama, a Red state, is up for re-election in 2020.
It is likely he will lose.
While his speech may not be as polished or consequential as Senator Romney’s moving explanation about the importance of his God and religion in his decision to convict, Senator Jones has much more to lose personally. While Mitt Romney is likely to pay a steep political price for his decision, he will eventually be okay. He is not up for re-election until 2024 – in a state that despises Trump and loves Romney. Moreover, the Senator from Utah is independently wealthy – personal wealth reportedly $250,000,000.
However, Senator Jones is not independently wealthy, personal wealth reportedly $1,000,000, not exactly a fortune in 2020.
During his lifetime, Senator Jones will pay a steep price: personally, politically, professionally, and, yes, probably financially.
But make no mistake: History will treat him kindly – more than just an asterisk.
Perhaps he, his family, and supporters can take small comfort, despite the consequences of his momentous decision.
The C-SPAN transcript of his statement is presented in all caps, with some transcription errors, and in one large block paragraph. Therefore, admin has decided on capitalization and the paragraphing as presented below. All capitalization and paragraphing errors are hers alone.)
Thank you, Mr. President. [Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa]
On the day I was sworn in as a United States Senator, I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. Just last month, at the beginning of the impeachment trial, I took a second oath to do fair and impartial according to the same Constitution I swore to protect. As I took the oath and throughout the impeachment trial, I couldn’t help but think of my father.
As many of you know, I lost my dad over the holiday recess.
While so many were arguing over whether or not the Speaker of the House should send articles of Impeachment to the Senate, I was struggling with watching him slip away while only occasionally trying to weigh in with my voice to be heard about the need for witnesses in the upcoming Impeachment trial.
My Dad was a great man, a loving husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather who did his best to instill in me the values of right and wrong as I grew up in Fairfield, Alabama. He was also a fierce patriot who loved this country.
Although fortunately he was never called on to do so, I firmly believed he would have placed his country even before his family because he knew and understood fully what America and the freedoms and liberties that come with Her mean to everyone in this great country and significantly to people around the world.
I know he would have put his country before any allegiance to any political party or even to any President.
He was on the younger side of that Greatest Generation who joined the Navy at age 17 to serve our great military.
That service and love of country shaped him into the man of principle that he was, instilling in me those same principles. And think[ing] of him, his patriotism, his principles, and how he raised me, I am reminded of Robert Kennedy’s words that were mentioned in this trial.
Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rare commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence, yet it is the one essential vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. Candidly to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I fear that moral courage, country before party is a rare commodity these days.
We can write about it and talk about it in speeches and in the media, but it is harder to put into action when political careers may be on the line
Nowhere is the dilemma more difficult than in an impeachment of a President of the United States. Very early on in this process, I implored my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, in both Houses of Congress, to stay out of their political and partisan corners. Many did, but so many did not.
Even the media continually viewed this entire process through partisan and political eyes and how it may or may not affect an election.
That is unfortunate.
The country deserves better, and we must find a way to move beyond such partisan divides.
The solemn oath that I have taken has been my guide during what has been a difficult time for the country, my state, and for me personally.
I did not run for the Senate hoping to participate in the Impeachment Trial of a duly elected President, but I cannot and will not shrink from my duty to defend the Constitution and to do impartial justice. In keeping with my oath as Senator and my oath to do impartial justice, I resolve that throughout this process I would keep an open mind to consider the evidence without regard to political affiliation and to hear all of the evidence before making a final decision on whether, on either charge against the President.
I believe that my votes [to convict on both articles] later today [5 February 2020] will reflect that commitment. With the eyes of history upon us, I’m acutely aware of the precedents that this Impeachment Trial will set for future Presidencies and Congresses. Unfortunately, I do not believe that those precedents are good ones.
I am particularly concerned that we have now set a precedent that the Senate does not have to go forward with witnesses or review documents even when those witnesses have firsthand information and the documents would allow us to test not just the credibility of witnesses, but also test the words of Counsel of both parties.
It is my firm belief the American people deserve more.
In short, witnesses and documents would provide the Senate and the American people with a more complete picture of the truth, and I believe the American people deserve nothing less.
That’s not say, however, that there is not sufficient evidence in which to render a judgment. There is. As a trial lawyer, I once explained this process to a jury is like putting together the pieces of the puzzle.
When you open the box and spread all the pieces on the table, it’s just an incoherent jumble. But one by one, you hold these pieces up and you hold them next to each other and see what fits and what doesn’t. And even if, as was often the case in my house growing up, you’re missing a few pieces, even important ones, you more often than not see the picture.
As I’ve said many times, I believe the American people deserve to see a completed puzzle, a picture with all the pieces, pieces in the form of documents and witnesses with relevant firsthand information which would have provided valuable context, corroboration or contradiction, to that which we have heard.
But even with missing pieces, our common sense and life’s experience allow us to see the picture as it comes into full view.
Throughout the trial, one piece of evidence continued to stand out for me. It was the President’s statement that under the Constitution, we have Article 2, and “I can do anything I want.” That seems to capture this President’s belief about the Presidency, that he has unbridled power, unchecked by Congress or the Judiciary or anyone else. That view [is] dangerous as it explains the President’s actions towards Ukraine and Congress.
Some of what we’ve seen and heard is unfortunately a picture of a President who abused the great power of his office for personal gain, a picture of a President who has placed his personal interest well above the interest of the nation, and in doing so threatened our national security. The security of our European allies and the security of Ukraine. The evidence clearly proves that the President used the weight of his office and the weight of the United States government to seek to coerce a foreign government to interfere in our election for his personal benefit.
His actions were more than simply inappropriate.
They were an abuse of power.
When I was a lawyer for the Alabama Judiciary Inquiry Commission, there was a saying that the Chairman of the Inquiry Commission and one of Alabama’s great judges used to say, Randall Cole, he used to say about judges who strayed from the cannon of ethics, that the Judge left his post. Sadly, President Trump left his post with regard to the withholding of military aid to Ukraine and a White House visit for the new Ukrainian President. And in doing so, he took the great powers of the office of the President of the United States with him.
Impeachment is the only check on such Presidential wrongdoing. The Second Article of Impeachment, obstruction of Congress, gave me more pause.
I’ve struggled to understand the House’s strategy and their failure to fully pursue documents and witnesses and wished that they had done more. However, after careful consideration of the evidence developed in the hearings, the public disclosures, the legal precedence in the trial, I believe the President deliberately and unconstitutionally obstructed Congress by refusing to cooperate with the investigation into any way – investigation in any way.
While I’m sensitive to protecting the privileges and immunities afforded to the President and his advisors, I believe it’s critical to our constitutional structure that we also protect the authorities of the Congress of the United States. Here, it was clear from the outset that the President had no intention whatsoever of accommodating Congress when he brought both – fought both witnesses and documents being produced. He engaged in conduct to smear the reputation, of the civil servants who did come forward and provide testimony.
The President’s actions demonstrate a belief that he is above the law, that Congress has no power whatsoever in questioning or examining his actions and that all who do so at their peril.
That belief unprecedented in history of this country simply must not be permitted to stand.
To do otherwise risks guaranteeing that no future whistle-blower or witness will ever come forward, and no future President, Republican or Democrat, will be subject to Congressional oversight as mandated by the Constitution, even when the President has so clearly abused his office and violated the public trust.
Accordingly, I will vote to convict the President on both Articles of Impeachment.
In doing so, I am mindful that, in a Democracy, there is nothing more sacred than the right to vote and respecting the will of the people.
But I’m also mindful that when our Founders wrote the Constitution, they envisioned a time or at least a possibility that our Democracy would be more damaged if we failed to impeach and remove a President such as the moment in History that we face today.
The gravity of this moment, the seriousness of the charges, and the implication for future Presidents and Congresses all contributed to the difficulty with which I’ve arrived at my decision.
I am mindful, Mr. President [Senator Charles Grassley], that I am standing at a desk that once was used by JohnF. Kennedy who famously wrote Profiles in Courage, and there will be so many who will simply look at what I’m doing today and say it is a Profile in Courage.
It is not.
It is simply a matter of right and wrong.
We’re doing – where doing right is not a courageous act.
It is simply following your oath.
Mr. President, [Senator Charles Grassley], this has been a divisive time for our country, but I think it has nonetheless been an important constitutional process for us to follow.
As this chapter of History draws to a close, one thing is clear to me.
As I’ve said before, our country deserves better than this.
They deserve better from the President.
They deserve better from the Congress.
We must find a way to come together to set aside partisan differences and to focus on what we have in common as Americans.
While so much is going on in our favor these days, we still face great challenges, both dom mostically and enter – domestically and internationally, but it remains my official belief that united we can conquer them and remain the greatest hope for the people around the world.
Mr. President [Senator Charles Grassley], I ask unanimous consent that my full statement be printed in the record.
Official Press Release from the Office of Senator Doug Jones
On the day I was sworn in as a United States Senator, I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. At the beginning of the impeachment trial, I took a second oath to do ‘impartial justice’ according to the same Constitution I swore to protect.
These solemn oaths have been my guides during what has been a difficult time for our country, for my state, and for me personally. I did not run for Senate hoping to participate in the impeachment trial of a duly-elected President, but I cannot and will not shrink from my duty to defend the Constitution and to do impartial justice.
In keeping with my oaths, I resolved that throughout this process I would keep an open mind and hear all of the evidence before making a final decision on the charges against the President. For months, I have been studying the facts of this case exhaustively. I have read thousands of pages of transcripts, watched videos of testimony, taken copious notes, reviewed history and precedents and discussed this case with colleagues, staff, and constituents, in addition to having participated in the Senate trial over the past two weeks. After many sleepless nights, I have reluctantly concluded that the evidence is sufficient to convict the President for both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
With the eyes of history upon us, I am acutely aware of the precedents this impeachment trial will set for future presidencies and Congresses. Unfortunately, I do not believe those precedents are good ones. I am particularly concerned that we have now set a precedent that a fair trial in the Senate does not include witnesses and documentary evidence, even when those witnesses have first-hand information and the evidence would provide the Senate and the American people with a more complete picture of the truth.
I am also deeply troubled by the partisan nature of these proceedings from start to finish. Very early on I implored my colleagues in both houses of Congress to stay out of their partisan corners. Many did, but so many did not. The country deserves better. We must find a way to rise above the things that divide us and find the common good.
Having done my best to see through the fog of partisanship, I am deeply troubled by the arguments put forth by the President’s lawyers in favor of virtually unchecked presidential power. In this case, the evidence clearly proves the President used the weight of his office and that of the United States government to seek to coerce a foreign government to interfere in our election for his personal political benefit. The President’s actions placed his personal interests well above the national interests and threatened the security of the United States, our allies in Europe, and our ally Ukraine. His actions were more than simply inappropriate. They were an abuse of power. With impeachment as the only check on such presidential wrongdoing, I felt I must vote to convict on the first charge of abuse of power.
The second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, gave me even more pause. I have struggled to understand the House’s strategy in their pursuit of documents and witnesses and wished they had done more. However, after careful consideration of the evidence developed in the hearings, the public disclosures, the legal precedents, and the trial, I believe the President deliberately and unconstitutionally obstructed Congress by refusing to cooperate with the investigation in any way. While I am sensitive to protecting the privileges and immunities afforded to the President and his advisors, I believe it is critical to our constitutional structure that we protect Congress’ authorities also. In this matter it was clear from the outset that the President had no intention whatsoever of any accommodation with Congress when he blocked both witnesses and documents from being produced. In addition, he engaged in a course of conduct to threaten potential witnesses and smear the reputations of the civil servants who did come forward and provide testimony. The President’s actions demonstrate a belief that he is above the law, that Congress has no power whatsoever in questioning or examining his actions, and that all who do so, do so at their peril. That belief, unprecedented in the history of this country, simply must not be permitted to stand. To do otherwise risks guaranteeing that no future whistleblower or witness will ever come forward and no future President — Democrat or Republican — will be subject to Congressional oversight as mandated by the Constitution.
Senators are elected to make tough choices. We are required to study the facts of each issue before us and exercise our independent judgment in keeping with the oaths we take. The gravity of this moment, the seriousness of the charges, and the implications for future presidencies and Congresses all contributed to the difficulty with which I have arrived at my decision.
This has been a divisive time for our country, but I think it has nonetheless been an important constitutional process for us to follow. As this chapter of history draws to a close, one thing is clear: our country deserves better than this. We must find a way to come together, to set aside partisan differences, and to focus on what we have in common as Americans. We are facing great challenges both domestically and internationally, but it remains my firm belief that united, we can conquer them and remain the greatest hope for people around the world.