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Exclusive: Byrne outlines detailed case against ‘tainted, partisan impeachment’ articles

In a lengthy video obtained by Yellowhammer News on Wednesday, Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) thoroughly outlined the case against the current Democratic impeachment push against President Donald Trump.

The video, which spans over 12 minutes, details Byrne’s reasons for fighting against the two articles of impeachment that will be voted on by the House on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning. The video has three basic parts: the reason the founders created the impeachment power, a history of impeachment abuses (and their ramifications) through today and a deconstruction of the two articles against Trump.

Byrne said, “These two articles would be thrown out of a court of law, just as they will be quickly tossed by the United States Senate. This is not an impeachment which meets any standard. It is a pointless, political exercise. It is nothing more than a naked attempt to overturn the 2016 election and weaken President Trump.”

“Democrats, before casting their vote today, must think about the power that we were given and weigh their duty to pass on what was given to us,” he added. “As the founders made clear, the ballot box, that sacred symbol of democracy, is the tool to remove a president for political and policy disagreements, not through the abuse and disregard of our constitution.”

“I swore an oath to defend that constitution, and it would be a failure of duty not to put all I have into defending it during a time when its integrity is being threatened to overthrow the results of an election. Your vote for president of the United States, and the constitution that protects that power, must be protected for our great republic to continue to survive. That is why I have chosen to fight so hard against the tainted, partisan impeachment process that unfolded, and that is why today I will be voting no,” Byrne concluded.

Watch:

Video transcript as follows:

PART I

Today will be the most important and consequential vote that most of us are likely ever to cast as a Member of the House of Representatives. Absent going to war, there is no greater power of the Congress than its ability to override the will of the voters of this country and remove a duly-elected President of the United States. Before taking this historic vote, I’d like to provide you with some background on what has shaped my convictions regarding impeachment and why I choose to be a leader in fighting against this abuse of power from the beginning.

If you serve in Congress, if you are faithful to the Constitution, you must honor and respect that this President, even if you don’t like him, was chosen by the American people. And, in the United States, the people are sovereign.

Too often I think some of my colleagues forget that the Capitol building isn’t ours. We are just the temporary trustees of the limited powers that the people of this country gave to us. They did not give us all of the power, they limited us, and they restrained us. The Founders were clear when it came to impeachment that treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors were necessary for impeachment, nothing less.

In English history, impeachments were often political, and the power was abused. Some framers viewed impeachment as too dangerous a power to even include in the Constitution. While this view didn’t end up holding, phrases such as “mal-practice and neglect of duty” and “maladministration” were specifically rejected. The Founders believed these terms would allow the Congress to remove a President because of a disagreement with his policies or the way in which he executed them, and they believed that impeachment should be used in only the most extreme situations.

The fundamental problem with impeachment was made clear by Alexander Hamilton in his Federalist 65 paper, written in March of 1788 as the last states were ratifying the Constitution. Hamilton foresaw that impeachments would agitate the passions of the whole community and divide into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. Further, he predicted that impeachment would end up with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence and interest on one side or the other. Finally, he perceived the danger that the decision to impeach would be driven more by the comparative strength of parties, than by real demonstrations of innocence or guilt. Could any contemporary political commentator do a better job of describing where we are today than Hamilton did in 1788? This is the exact type of partisan scheme the Founders, in all their wisdom, so carefully warned us about.

PART II

Throughout the 231 years we have operated under this Constitution, there have been times of great triumph in this great House and there have been times that history has looked back unkindly. The misuse and abuse of the power of impeachment has always been the latter.

Every member here would be quick to dismiss the impeachment of Andrew Johnson as wrong, politically motivated, and a shameful chapter in the history of the House. Yet, the parallels to this impeachment are striking. Then, you had a House majority who despised the President of the United States from the very beginning and began looking for a way to remove the President almost immediately. So, they set a trap. They passed an unconstitutional law, the Tenure in Office Act, that they knew the President would violate and even wrote in there that violation of the law would be considered a high Misdemeanor. Then, they rushed with speed to impeach as quickly as they could. The very day President Johnson violated the Tenure in Office Act, a resolution of impeachment was introduced. Two weeks later, eleven articles of impeachment were adopted. But we all know the story of the Republicans in the Senate who said we may not like this President, we may not agree with this President, we may wish he wasn’t our President, but we will not violate our oath. We will stand for the Constitution against this blatant abuse of power and vote no, and remember, that was in 1868!

Twenty years ago, we also impeached a President of the United States. It was uncontested that he had committed a crime, perjury. Yet many of the very same people in Congress today who now support impeachment back then said that wasn’t a high crime; that wasn’t what the founders wanted to overrule the will of the voters on. How quickly things change.

The only successful impeachment effort against a President was Richard Nixon. And, it was successful because the House moved slowly and deliberately and there were real high crimes. There were fourteen months of hearings, not show hearings to build a media narrative, but true investigations into the facts of the case. There were mountains of evidence, much of which courts had to pry from the Executive. There was proof of multiple felony crimes. The House majority took that evidence and they slowly built a case they knew they could actually prosecute in the Senate, and they built a case that they knew the American people could respect. Their case was so well constructed that Nixon resigned before the House actually voted to impeach.

Let’s compare that to where we are today. In three months, we have gone from receiving an unsubstantiated, hearsay, and largely discredited whistleblower complaint to the production of articles of impeachment against the President. But that does not matter to the other side because this has never been about the truth. They knew as soon as this whistleblower complaint was received that they would impeach President Trump. They said it! They also said we can’t take the time to actually investigate because we must have enough built in time for our moderate members to distance themselves from their vote.

They never tried to build a record, to build a case, to even listen to President Trump’s defense, to find out what actually happened. We heard these articles would be quid pro quo, bribery, obstruction of justice, Mueller, so many things. But in the end, based solely on a politically motivated timeline, they took a bunch of hearsay and scribbled down two short articles of impeachment. This boils down to Democrats going on a wild search for charges that could stick against President Trump but finally having to settle on something as the clock wound down.

PART III

Let’s look at the actual substance of the two articles which in a few short weeks this majority will have to present and defend as prosecutor in the United States Senate.

The first article is for “abuse of power”. Nowhere in the Constitution is this phrase used as a standard for impeachment. Rather, it has been used previously, as in the Nixon impeachment, as an umbrella term for certain distinct crimes, like obstruction of justice. Never in the history of impeachment has an article been written like this – one that does not allege an underlying crime!

This article is centered on President Trump’s request that the Ukrainian government investigate potential corruption in their country involving US citizens. One of those citizens was Hunter Biden who got a position with a corrupt Ukrainian energy company, paying him $50,000 a month despite his having no background in energy or Ukraine, while his father, Joe Biden was not only Vice President but was also the point man for the Obama Administration on – Ukraine! Hunter Biden doesn’t get a pass from investigation because his father was previously the VP or is running for President. Most importantly, nowhere in the conversation does the President mention US aid to Ukraine and the Ukrainian President has clearly said he did not perceive the conversation to be about the aid or any kind of a quid pro quo. That conversation was not a crime and the article doesn’t say it was.

And it’s not even an abuse of power in a non-criminal sense because every president has the power and authority to interact with other foreign heads of state on matters of importance to our country. US concerns over Ukrainian corruption, especially with oligarchs like the one running the company employing Hunter Biden, span several US administrations, going back to George H.W. Bush. We provide Ukraine hundreds of millions of dollars in aid each year and we have every right, and every president has the duty, to be sure our aid isn’t wasted or, worse, siphoned to corrupt people.

Read the transcript of the phone conversation between President Trump and President Zelensky. Show me the crime; show me the abuse of power! I see a US president doing his job, making sure there isn’t a continuing pattern of corruption, potentially involving US citizens.

I know career US officials didn’t like the conversation, but they serve the President, not the other way around. Moreover, most did not hear the conversation or have any direct knowledge of what was going on. There is a reason courts don’t allow hearsay evidence, opinions or “presumptions” as they are unreliable. And their primary witness who did have personal knowledge of the conversation had nothing to add of substance to the transcript, other than that he disagreed with the President. He has a right to disagree with the President. But his disagreement doesn’t mean the President committed a crime or abused his power.

The second article, obstruction of Congress, would be laughable if it wasn’t so dangerous. Every president, going back to George Washington, has exerted executive privilege as to his records and officials. During the Watergate controversy involving President Nixon, the courts recognized and enforced this privilege. Every president in modern times has taken a broad approach to the privilege, even if they ultimately lost in court.

This majority has done absolutely nothing to try to enforce the subpoenas they seek to impeach the President over. They have not held one person in contempt of Congress. They have not filed one lawsuit in court to compel attendance or the production of documents. Think about the ramifications of this. The President asserts a privilege and we rush to impeach only weeks later, without even considering other remedies?

The pure hypocrisy of this move is stunning. The very same people on the other side of the aisle would not vote to hold Eric Holder in contempt of Congress while he and President Obama stonewalled the House over documents and evidence related to the Fast and the Furious investigation. By the standard they seek to set today, the Democrats should have written articles of impeachment against the two of them!

Again, we know the reason for this article, the Democrat majority does not want to wait for a court ruling, even an expedited one, because they have to have impeachment now, before Christmas. They can’t risk waiting for a ruling on the President’s privilege assertions because impeachment is hurting their moderate members.

These two articles would be thrown out of a court of law, just as they will be quickly tossed by the United States Senate. This is not an impeachment which meets any standard. It is a pointless, political exercise. It is nothing more than a naked attempt to overturn the 2016 election and weaken President Trump.

In 1868, Republican Senator Lyman Trumbull said on the floor of the Senate, “once set, the example of impeaching a President for what, when the excitement of the house shall have subsided, will be regarded as insufficient causes [will mean] no future President will be safe.”

Democrats, before casting their vote today, must think about the power that we were given and weigh their duty to pass on what was given to us. As the Founders made clear, the ballot box, that sacred symbol of democracy, is the tool to remove a President for political and policy disagreements, not through the abuse and disregard of our Constitution.

I swore an oath to defend that Constitution, and it would be a failure of duty not to put all I have into defending it during a time when its integrity is being threatened to overthrow the results of an election. Your vote for President of the United States, and the Constitution that protects that power, must be protected for our great Republic to continue to survive. That is why I have chosen to fight so hard against the tainted, partisan impeachment process that unfolded, and that is why today I will be voting no.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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