Congressmember Karen Bass (D-Calif.) delivered the below remarks at the opening of the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump. A final vote to send articles of impeachment to the House floor for a final vote is expected to be held by the committee tomorrow.
“Mr. Chairman, this is a sad day in US history—when we have to vote on articles of impeachment because Donald Trump has abused the power of the office of the Presidency in his attempt to cheat his way to reelection. This evening we will begin the process because of the uncontested facts: President Trump directed military aid approved by Congress be withheld until a vulnerable ally publicly announce an investigation of the President’s top opponent in the upcoming election. Fortunately, he was caught in the act by a brave patriot who took the risk to anonymously reporting and military assistance was finally released. However, during the eight weeks that President Trump withheld military aid from our ally, at least thirteen Ukrainians died in the field.
“I know Ukraine is far away and it might be difficult to imagine how and why this country should be of any concern to us here. In part, it is a matter of our country honoring our commitments, but it is more than that. When countries are unstable, they can collapse, become failed states, and can be taken over by governments hostile to the US or become fertile ground for terrorist organizations. The President compromised our national security for his personal gain–when military assistance was withheld from Ukraine, that left that country vulnerable to a neighbor that had already invaded its territory.
“As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I regularly meet with heads of state and I often have to apologize for some embarrassing statement or tweet the President has made. Since the Ukraine scandal, I have faced questions from leaders from around the world. They ask— ‘What is going on there? Where does the US stand in regard to past commitments? Is this president just an anomaly or has the U.S. Presidency been permanently diminished, weakened, corrupted? Has something fundamentally changed in the U.S.?’
“The world is watching how we handle this crisis. There are many nations attempting to re-establish or create democratic governments after decades of autocratic or corrupt rule and they are looking to the United States. When Members of Congress travel on Congressional delegations, we emphasize the importance of adhering to the rule of law, we encourage leaders to conduct free, fair and transparent elections that are supported by and accountable to their citizens. Now, Members of Congress have to acknowledge the challenges we face in our country, but we explain that because of the US constitution and Bill of Rights, when efforts are made to restrict and limit the right to vote, we are free to speak out and challenge our government.
“We preach good governance and transparencies, we insist that countries fight corruption, and one of the best ways to counter abuse is to not only encourage people to come forward and report but to ensure that when people do come forward, they are protected and remain anonymous. We explain that in the US there are specific laws that protect people who come forward.
“Congressional delegations come and go, but there are thousands of federal employees who live and work around the world from the State Department and USAID — these patriots work in difficult conditions.
“What message does it send around the world when they see the President and his supporters attack and attempt to reveal the identity of the patriot who took the risk that exposed Trump’s abuse of the Presidency, his abuse of power? What message does it send when the world witnesses the President and his supporters denigrate, disrespect and via Twitter, harass a patriot while she was testifying in public? He has compromised their ability to fight for our values and democracy. This is another example of why the actions of this President threatens US national security.
“The President’s defenders shout, coup, hoax, and demonstrate their 150% loyalty to the President while off the record, acknowledge his wrong doing. People from around the world understand this as autocratic behavior, they know if they step out of line, they might lose their lives, or in this instance, they might lose their election. The president has forbidden everyone in the administration from cooperating, even when subpoenaed, leaving the only tools available to us—impeachment–this not a coup and it is irresponsible to label a constitutional process a coup. It is the responsibility of this committee to follow the Constitution.
“The world is waiting to see if we will hold ourselves to the democratic principles we insist that others uphold. Will we demonstrate our ability to peacefully hold our leaders accountable? We have an opportunity to show the world how a mature democracy handles a crisis. We have an opportunity to show the world that US democracy remains strong; and it is this President that is an anomaly. We have an opportunity to demonstrate to the world that in the United States, no one is above the law, including President Trump. This is why we must adopt articles of impeachment and take the first step toward relieving our nation and the world of this Presidency.”