See below for video and a transcript of Senator Tim Kaine’s floor speech a few minutes ago, “announcing that he will vote to convict President Trump at the end of the Senate’s impeachment process tomorrow.”
Sen. Kaine’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery:
President Trump schemed to get Ukraine to help him win the 2020 election by strong-arming its new President to announce a bogus investigation against a political opponent. To carry out his scheme, he smeared, fired and threatened a dedicated career ambassador, thwarted Congress by secretly withholding appropriated military aid over the advice of his national security team, violated two laws in order to hide his actions, outsourced critical foreign policy to a rogue private attorney, hurt an American ally, gratified an adversary and overturned longstanding precedent regarding the relationship between the executive and legislative branches. The scheme was so repellent that numerous members of his own Administration fought against it and then, when they could not stop it themselves, courageously brought it to light.
The House Managers have proven both articles of impeachment. But I have struggled during the Senate process—which cannot be called a trial due to the shocking refusal to allow key witnesses and documents—with a basic question. Is it an abuse of trust for a President to behave exactly as expected? President Trump’s behavior has been appalling. But it has not been a surprise.
The American public knew that Donald Trump would seek foreign help to win an election. He publicly did so in 2016 by appealing to Russia for help at the same time as the Chairman of our Joint Chiefs of Staff said Russia was America’s chief adversary. That he is doing so again is no surprise.
The American public knew that Donald Trump would target political opponents with false attacks. He publicly did so in 2016 by leading crowds in chants of “lock her up.” That he will again target perceived opponents—Democrats or Republicans, Ambassadors or whistleblowers, Representatives or Senators—is no surprise.
The American public knew that Donald Trump would obstruct the release of information. He publicly did so in 2016 when he violated long-standing practice by refusing to release his tax returns. That he will continue to obstruct Congress, the media and the American public is no surprise.
His bigotry is no surprise. His lying is no surprise. His lack of ethics is no surprise. His xenophobia is no surprise. His misogyny is no surprise. His obsessive selfishness is no surprise. His hateful, divisive and ignorant rhetoric is no surprise.
But Presidential impeachment was not designed to remove an amoral leader the nation knowingly and willingly elected. It was designed to rescue the nation from a leader who abuses the public trust. Can one abuse the public trust by behaving exactly as expected?
The Senate impeachment process answered my question. In 1974, Senators of both parties were willing to condemn extreme Presidential misconduct. In 1999, Senators of both parties were able to distinguish between unacceptable personal behavior and “high crimes and misdemeanors.” But in 2020, the Senate majority engineered an effort to conceal the truth rather than find the truth. Some described their motives as “let the people decide”—even as they voted to hide critical evidence from the American people.
While the President’s actions have not been surprising, the Senate’s capitulation has surprised me. And last Friday, as the majority repeatedly blocked the effort to consider witnesses and documents, I had a sad epiphany.
Unchallenged evil spreads like a virus. We have allowed a toxic President to infect the Senate and warp its behavior. And now the Senate’s refusal to allow a fair trial threatens to spread a broader public anxiety about whether “impartial justice” is a hollow fiction. An acquittal will lead to worse conduct. I will not be part of this continual degradation of public trust. Thus, I will vote to convict.
An acquittal will, however, underscore a higher principle. The removal of a man will not remove the moral void he exemplifies. Instead, everyday people of good will must engage as never before and show, to ourselves and to the world, that Americans still have the capacity to choose right over wrong, service over self, fact over fiction and decency over malice.
UPDATE 3:46 pm – Sen. Mark Warner speaking now.