Jones Calls for Changes in the Impeachment Process

Sen. Doug Jones at Cumberland School of Law 2.7.2020. (Source: Nick Patterson)

U.S. Senator Doug Jones today said that, in the aftermath of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, he’d like to see procedural changes that would streamline the process in the future.

“We’re done, we’re through, we’re moving on. We’re already talking to colleagues about new legislation that we’ll be introducing, one of which may deal with this impeachment,” he said. “I’d like to see some new processes and new rules in place. There’s a lot of talk. There may be some things seen in the next couple or three weeks about that.”

Jones made the remarks after speaking to a full house of Cumberland School of Law students and faculty at Samford University in a talk designed to give the future lawyers from his alma mater insight into how he thought through the process and reached what he said was not a political decision on his part.

“In particular, I’d like to see a process whereby we don’t get into this position where the House is saying, ‘We don’t have time to do things,’ and the president is saying, ‘It’s going to take you a long time to go through this process,’” said Jones, who is seeking election this year to his first full term in the Senate. He won a special election to the Senate in December 2017.

“I’d like to figure out a way that when subpoenas are issued for documents, for people, that those things can be considered by the House, the Senate, the courts and be done with it. And we’ve got a timeline so everybody would know where we stand and people can plan accordingly.”

Jones said he believes there is support for such measures from both major political parties.

Running in a state where Trump is highly popular, and seen by many as the most vulnerable senator standing for election in 2020, Jones voted with the other Democrats in the Senate on Feb. 5 when the House effort to convict Trump from office failed on nearly party line votes of 52-48 and 53-47. Of Republicans, only Mitt Romney joined the Democrats in voting to convict on one of the counts.

Jones told listeners at Samford that, after considering the evidence through the lens of a prosecutor, he had no choice but to vote to convict Trump at the end of his impeachment trial. Ultimately, Jones said, it came down to a president putting his personal political interests above the interests of the country.

“I just think the evidence was compelling. Despite the approval ratings, despite the good things we have in our economy, the Constitution doesn’t address that,” he said. “It addresses in my view conduct that in my opinion is outside the oath of office, conduct that does not put the national interests above all other interests. And in this particular case I thought that with everything that was done — with the withholding of military assistance from an ally, a friend who badly needed it,  as well as the obstruction of Congress — the evidence was just compelling enough that I felt like that I had to vote to convict.”

Jones went into great detail explaining his thinking on elements of the impeachment case. He said he took notes as if he were preparing to take the case to court himself. He said he took issue with the partisanship evident in the case, but repeatedly said that his decision was based on the evidence, not political affiliation. “I try to do what I believe to be the right thing… I try to vote my conscience in everything I do,” he said.

He said he became convinced that, despite Trump’s statements to the contrary, there was a quid pro quo in his demands that Ukraine investigate Hunter Biden’s business dealings in exchange for aid money. The money had not been withheld until Hunter Biden’s father, Joe Biden, announced he would run for president, Jones said. And during the years that the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the Justice Department, there were no investigations of Hunter Biden’s business with Ukraine, until it became beneficial to Trump, he noted.

Jones, who called the verdict in the Senate trial “rigged,” noted that this impeachment case was the first in the history of the country where witnesses were not called. “Trials, in my view, have witnesses. Trials have documents. We had none,” he said.

Knowing that some in the audience at Samford may have disagreed with his vote and his rationale, Jones said the purpose of his visit was less about persuading people to take his side than it was to give back.

“This is where things started for me as a lawyer, and I feel very blessed to have had the career that I’ve had. It started right here at Cumberland. And sometimes you just want to give back,” Jones said.

“And I thought that given this process, rather than people just seeing things in a soundbite from the media … this would just give a good opportunity to not only let me talk about it a bit — which I really wanted to do — but let them know the importance of how you build a case, how you look at things from a legal perspective. Because I think my training as a lawyer really helped me throughout this process.

“Whether they agree with my decision is really not the point,” he said. The event allowed the students to “talk to someone who was really right in the middle of it and see his thought process and where things went.”