The writers of the U.S. Constitution outlined separate but equal powers among our three branches of government so that each branch would have built-in checks and balances to maintain accountability. But what happens when our country becomes so partisan that members of Congress fail to defend their own power to act as a check on the executive branch in order to appease the sitting president? Sadly, that is our current reality.
I am deeply concerned with the Senate’s apparent indifference and inaction when it comes to our president overriding their votes and authority. Even though the Constitution calls for checks and balances, when Trump does something clearly not aligned with what the Senate asks, the Republican senators change their views to enable Trump to get what he wants. This is a danger to our republic. Where are our defenders of the constitution in the GOP?
Traditionally, the Republican party had an anti-Russia stance as part of its platform. When Trump became the nominee, he changed that part of the platform at the Republican Convention. Soon after the 2016 elections, Congress overwhelmingly voted to reinstate sanctions on Russia to punish them for their role in meddling in the 2016 US elections and the annexation of Crimea. However, after Trump started to undermine the sanctions bill Congress passed, eventually enough senators voted to allow Trump to lift sanctions against Russian oligarch and Putin-ally Oleg Deripaska, thus abandoning their traditionally hard stance on Russia. The Republicans in Congress flipped their political stance to kowtow the president.
One of the powers of Congress is to declare war. Under the Constitution, the president is not allowed to order an act of war without going through Congress unless there is knowledge of an imminent threat. Trump ordered the airstrike that assassinated Iran’s General Soleimani in Iraq without asking or informing Congress ahead of time. After the classified briefing Congress received after the attack, it became clear that there was no intelligence of an imminent threat and therefore, the president abused his power.
Along with their Democratic colleagues, only Republican Senators Rand Paul (KY) and Mike Lee (UT) stood up to defend the constitution and the separation of powers by publicly addressing the lack of justification for the attack on Iran and the lack of Congress’ authorization for the use of force. Where do the other Republican lawmakers stand on this clear abuse of power from the president?
We have seen the GOP-led Senate enable the president’s abuse of power over and over again — not only with regards to foreign policy in Russia and Iran but with Ukraine, which is at the center of the impeachment trial. Like many Americans, I have spent countless hours listening to our devoted civil servants testify during the impeachment hearings on C-SPAN and reading emails that have recently come to light showing that Trump himself directed the freeze on military aid to Ukraine.
It has been revealed that Trump’s own aides (John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Mark Esper) warned him that he was not allowed to hold up the Congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine without consulting Congress. He knew it was against the constitution to withhold the funding, but he didn’t care. The American people need to hear from these aides in the impeachment trial.
Trump withholding almost $400 million of taxpayer money that was allocated on a bipartisan basis to help an ally in a war against our common enemy for personal gain is bribery. It’s like saying, “I’ll give you $400 million if you dig up dirt on my political opponent.” The American people did not ask for their $400 million in taxes to be used in Trump’s reelection campaign. I would think our U.S. Senators would be upset that our president acted without their knowledge to quietly disregard their votes on the military aid to Ukraine.
Our senators need to do their job and lead a fair and comprehensive impeachment trial. With the new evidence the public has received since the articles of impeachment have been approved, I think it’s only legitimate to have Trump’s aides testify of what they knew while the aid was being withheld. I think the newly surfaced emails from the Office of Management and Budget should also be included in the trial, along with the newly obtained notes from Lev Parnas to get Zelensky to announce an investigation into the Bidens and the letter from Rudy Giuliani to President-elect Zelensky asking for a meeting on behalf of President Trump.
It would also be helpful if the president were forced to release relevant documents. If Senators still don’t want to remove the president from office after the truth comes out under oath during the trial, that is on them, but to not have key witnesses testify is a disservice to our country, the Constitution, and the rule of law.
Trump needs to be held accountable for his actions or he’ll keep asking foreign countries to help him with his reelection. This is dangerous. Foreign countries should not be allowed to influence our elections. We’ve seen in revelations last week that Russia has hacked the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, most likely in efforts to help Trump’s reelection campaign. Trump has broken the law and he shows no sign of stopping. Every day we hear of another thing Trump has checked off of Putin’s agenda to weaken us as a world power. Russia is continuing to meddle in our elections and spread lies on social media.
The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly voted to allocate military aid to Ukraine in its efforts to defend itself from Russia. Trump held up that aid without the knowledge of Congress simply to help himself politically. The GOP senators need to stop being complicit in Trump’s illegal behavior and act as a check on this president. They need to stand for truth and righteousness and demand to have real witnesses testify so we can have a real impeachment trial in the Senate. Our country deserves to hear the truth.