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U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, R-Neb., has been under fire from Trump supporters when he was one of a handful of Senate Republicans who did not vote in favor of U.S. Senator Rand Paul’s resolution calling the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump unconstitutional.

Sasse has been unwilling to rule out voting to convict the former president, who the U.S. House of Representatives impeached after the riot and breach of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 that ended with five people dead and delayed the certification of the Electoral College vote.

He has also been critical of the president’s actions since Election Day.

I’m on the record opposing the impeachment. I also believe an impeachment trial of someone who is now a private citizen is constitutionally questionable if not unconstitutional. It’s undoubtedly unprecedented and, I’m sure, will be debated for years regardless of the outcome.

So Sasse and I may disagree on that. He may very well vote against conviction. Sasse hasn’t said he would vote to convict. He just hasn’t ruled it out.

I don’t fault Sasse for not voting for the resolution. I think it is entirely appropriate for a Senator not to telegraph how they will vote before the impeachment trial begins. While this is not a criminal or civil trial, the Senate does act as the jury. Jurors are not supposed to consider a verdict until the trial ends, and the defense rests. It is appropriate for a Senator to wait as well.

Paul’s resolution was not going to stop the trial, and its unconstitutionality is debatable. It would be better for Senators to make that case when they deliberate as a body after the trial before they vote.

Also, I think President Trump’s responsibility for what happened on January 6 is debatable. I don’t think he’s criminally liable for inciting a riot based on the timeline of when the riot started. I also don’t believe he meant to fight Congress physically. This is language he has used in the past. That said, his actions leading up to January 6 provided the opportunity for this to happen. His response during the riot and afterward I also found wanting. Worthy of impeachment? If he had more than two weeks to go in his term, perhaps I would have thought differently.

I say all of this as the context for Sasse’s message to the Nebraska GOP State Central Committee that is considering censuring him. His response is one that I think Republicans, especially those who are angry about the presidential election results, need to hear.

“I listen to Nebraskans every day, and very few of them are as angry about life as some of the people on this committee, not all of you, but a lot. Political addicts don’t represent most Nebraska conservatives,” he said.

Sasse reflected on his 2014 campaign.

“We promised to speak out when our leaders, not just Democrats, but any leader in either party crossed the line. We pledged to put the constitution ahead of party politics. You gave me standing ovations,” he said. “My election night speech, the first time I ever ran for or got elected anything, was a simple promise that I would always vote my conscience, even if it might be against the partisan stream. You cheered,

“But many of the same party officials who applauded in 14, cussed me out and 16 when I refused to vote for candidate Trump, and, again, when I declined to serve on his reelection committee in 19. And, again, when I didn’t vote for him in 20. Now many of you are hacked off that I condemned his lies that led to a riot,” Sasse continued.

“Let’s be clear, the anger in the state party has never been about me violating principle or abandoning conservative policy. I’m one of the most conservative voters in the Senate. The anger has always been simply about me not bending the knee to one guy. But my disagreements with President Trump have never been personal. They’ve always been about genuine affection for the constitutional order. Something every American regardless of party should share,” he said.

“What Americans saw three weeks ago was ugly, shameful mob violence to disrupt a constitutionally mandated meeting of the Congress to affirm that peaceful transfer of power. It happened because the president lied to you. He lied about the election results for 60 days, despite losing 60 straight court challenges, many of them handed down by wonderful Trump-appointed judges. He lied by saying that the vice president could just violate his constitutional oath and declare a new winner. That wasn’t true. He then riled a mob that attacked the Capitol, many chanting ‘hang Pence.’ If that President were a Democrat, we both know how you’d respond. But because he had Republican behind his name, you’re defending him,” Sasse argued.

“Something has definitely changed over the last four years. But it’s not me. Personality cults aren’t conservative. Conspiracy theories aren’t conservative. Lying that an election has been stolen; it’s not conservative. Acting like politics is a religion. It isn’t conservative. I still believe every word from the campaign trail. What makes America great isn’t power politics. It’s what happens in the communities where you and I are raising our kids. Happily, most Nebraskans still believe that too,” he said.

Sasse was able to back this up with numbers. He outperformed Trump in Nebraska by almost 27,000 votes. Sasse won Douglas County, where Omaha is located, by over 20 points, and Lancaster County, where Lincoln is located, by 23 points. Trump lost Douglas County by over 11 points and Lancaster by almost eight points.

Who better reflects the electorate? Not Trump.

Republicans need to unify over principles, not divide over a personality. The current trajectory that I saw back in 2016 is why I left the Republican Party (though I still happily vote for Republican candidates I can support). I acknowledge not being in party leadership or an elected office made that easier. I’m, however, not alone.

If the Republican Party is going to succeed, it needs to offer a vision that can unite voters. Questioning someone’s conservative credentials or pushing people out of the party because they disagree with Trump’s behavior or because they don’t believe a presidential election was stolen will only lead to permanent minority status. (Or push out those who don’t think U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., should be forced from leadership due to her impeachment vote or oppose U.S. Rep. Melody Taylor Greene, R-Ga., because she is a conspiracy theorist.)

If the Republican Party focuses once again on principles and not personalities, I’ll happily return. In the meantime, the party needs guys like Sasse to get there.

6 comments
  1. Sen. Sasse made the following series of false statements:

    1. “[President Trump] lied about the election results for 60 days, despite losing 60 straight court challenges, many of them handed down by wonderful Trump-appointed judges.”

    The fact is that there is overwhelming evidentiary support for the proposition that there was massive election fraud and illegality ranging from mistreatment of poll watchers to improper changes in election laws by those who had no power to do so. None of the court losses, as far as I am aware, were based on the results of an evidentiary hearing where witnesses are examined and exhibits entered into evidence. So none of these court decisions were based on an examination of the evidence. See the reports by Peter Navarro, the report of the Chairman of the Election Law Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee of the Georgia Senate, and the statistical reports of John Lott, William Briggs and others for such evidence. Look at the legislative hearings in Pennsylvania and the other battleground states for more evidence. The legislatures in Arizona and Georgia are actively pursuing investigations of election fraud.

    2. “[President Trump] lied by saying that the vice president could just violate his constitutional oath and declare a new winner.” President Trump never asked the Vice President to violate any oath or declare a new winner. The President asked Mike Pence for a delay, with respect to certain states, so their legislatures could then decide whether to decertify the electors and certify new ones. There is an argument from legal scholars that, “if ‘counting’ the electors’ votes is the Vice President’s responsibility, then the inextricably intertwined responsibility for judging the validity of those votes must also be his.” If that is true, then it is reasonable to suggest the Vice President could impose a delay for the purpose of ensuring the validity of the electors’ votes. Mike Pence and his legal advisers did not agree. A difference in legal opinion is not “lying”.

    3. “[President Trump] then riled a mob that attacked the Capitol, many chanting ‘hang Pence.” As I have previously pointed out, given the time it takes to proceed from the President’s speech at the Ellipse to the Capitol, it is extremely doubtful that any of the mob had heard any of the President’s speech prior to beginning their attack on the Capitol. In any event, there is nothing in the President’s speech that incited anything other than a peaceful march to the Capitol to cheer on the Republican Representatives fighting for him and to make their voices heard. Although the Democrats are now, incredibly, suggesting that President Trump’s speech is not protected by the First Amendment, all of his speech was protected political speech. If ‘riling up” is sufficient for an impeachment, is Bernie Sanders responsible for the shooting of Steve Scalise by his supporter? Are those who encouraged peaceful protest of the George Floyd shooting responsible for the subsequent murders, riots, burning and looting? Should Obama have been impeached for telling Democrats to bring a gun to a knife fight? Should President Biden be impeached for threatening to physically assault President Trump as well as voters who disagreed with Biden?

    Sen. Sasse had an obligation to find out the facts before making his irresponsible statements. He completely failed.

    Sen. Sasse also should have supported a dismissal of the charges, without a Senate trial, because the House impeachment was in violation of the Constitution and historical precedent because there was no impeachment investigation and due process rights were denied the Republican party members and the President. These due process rights include the right to counsel, to subpoena evidence, to cross-examine witnesses, to call witnesses, and to have an impartial presiding officer. Indeed, the Senate intends to go to trial with a biased presiding officer. In the law we say, “The fruit of the poisoned tree is also poison.” This means that illegally obtained evidence or, for that matter, indictments or impeachments, must be discarded when they are fatally tainted by illegal process.
    These grounds alone, irrespective of the issue of impeaching someone who is no longer President, support dismissal.

    Sen. Sasse is undoubtedly aware that the Democrats have been supporting an impeachment in search of a crime since 19 minutes after President Trump was inaugurated. His irresponsible behavior supporting this unconstitutional rush to judgment and impeachment as an instrument of political hatred is pretty strange behavior for someone who claims, “genuine affection for the constitutional order.”

    1. I’m not going to go through each point to provide a rebuttal. I will say your assumption in point #1 is incorrect, there were several hearings where the Trump campaign lawyers or surrogates were given an opportunity to provide evidence and they either 1. failed to do so, or 2. provided insufficient evidence.

      Your comment re. point #2, in essence, that is exactly what he wanted Vice President Pence to do.

      We’ll have to agree to disagree. This is going to be my only reply. I’m frankly tired of debating about Trump. I just think trying to purge conservatives in the party because they didn’t bend the knee is stupid.

      1. With respect to the won/loss record by Trump and the GOP, there is a spreadsheet with the following data. See http://wiseenergy.org/Energy/Election/2020_Election_Cases.htm . Since June of 2020, there were 81 court cases filed which were directly related to the presidential election. Twenty-five are still active. Twenty-three were not decided on the merits, but on procedural, timeliness, mootness, or jurisdictional grounds. Eleven were withdrawn. Only 22 were decided on the merits, i.e. based on consideration of evidence of illegality or voter fraud. The Trump campaign and/or the GOP were parties in all 22 cases and won 15 of them. Three of the Trump/GOP wins were in Iowa.

  2. With respect to item #1, I would be interested in knowing in what cases evidence of election fraud or illegality were presented in an evidentiary hearing. It is absurd to treat all 60 case results, as Ben Sasse did, as if they were the results of hearings on the merits when the vast majority were not. See the comments by the President’s attorney John C. Eastman in the interview at: https://ricochet.com/podcast/849728/prof-john-eastman-phil-kerpen/

    With respect to item #2, as the Presidents attorney John C. Eastman explained at https://americanmind.org/memo/setting-the-record-straight-on-the-potus-ask/#N2 :

    “Here is the relevant portion of the president’s speech from the Ellipse on January 6: 

    ‘We’re supposed to protect our country, support our country, support our constitution, and protect our constitution. States want to revote. The States got defrauded. They were given false information. They voted on it. Now they want to recertify. They want it back. All Vice-President Pence has to do is send it back to the States to recertify, and we become president, and you are the happiest people (Emphasis added)’. 

    That was consistent with my own remarks just prior to the president’s: ‘And all we are demanding of Vice President Pence is this afternoon at 1:00 he let the Legislatures of the States look into this so we get to the bottom of it and the American people know whether we have control of the direction of our government or not.’

    In other words, the vice president was not being asked to decide the matter himself, but to pause the proceedings long enough to give the couple of states whose legislators had asked for more time to assess whether the illegal conduct by their state election officials—illegal conduct that Pence himself twice acknowledged in his statement—was sufficient to warrant revoking the existing certification and submitting a new one that accurately reflected the state’s vote, just as Hawaii had done in 1960. 

    Pence was thus being asked to let the matter be resolved by the State Legislatures.”

    Expecting Senators to honor the Constitution, due process and to correctly ascertain the facts is not bending a knee to Trump.

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