U.S. Sen. Doug Jones said in a press conference and in remarks on the Senate floor Thursday that it’s crucial that the constitutional process in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump be allowed to play out.
Asking the media to “take a deep breath,” Jones said it was important to understand that the impeachment process is just beginning. Jones said that to rush to any judgment on either side of the political fence without knowing all of the facts is irresponsible.
“Allegations in a complaint are simply that,” he said. “They are allegations made, but they have to be proven.”
“It’s very unlikely there is going to be a smoking gun on either side,” Jones said. “That’s not how the real world works.”
Stating that gathering a complete set of facts was crucial, Jones said, “We are nowhere close to having a full picture of what happened here.”
Democrats in the House of Representatives for months have been conducting preliminary investigations to determine whether grounds exist on which to impeach Trump. But Thursday’s release of a complaint alleging Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate political competitor Joe Biden and his son, along with transcripts of that call, made impeachment a foregone conclusion.
Some lawmakers said articles of impeachment could be prepared by the end of October.
But Jones said he was concerned that sides were being taken before the evidence has been reviewed. He said he was dismayed the issue had already become political.
“People are going to their political corners, said Jones, “The partisan tribalism is taking over already. And that is unfortunate. It is a sad commentary when a process that is so rooted, so rooted in the Constitution of the United States, something so fundamental to our democracy is almost immediately cast in political terms.”
Jones said that he would need to see how all the pieces come together and fully understand what happened, but he did express concerns about the most recent allegations.
Jones said that, whether or not his fellow senators support the president, they had a duty to be fair and impartial, not political, and to wait for the facts to come in and fully consider them.
He said considering how the impeachment inquiry will affect the 2020 election was the wrong approach: “Don’t ask me whether or not this is going to affect my election in 2020. Don’t ask me if it’s going to affect Joe Biden or Donald Trump. Don’t ask me if it’s going to affect the presidential race. Ask me, “What is going to happen to the Constitution? What is going to happen to the rule of law?” Let’s talk about the seriousness of what we’ve got and not the politics of it, for goodness sake.”
A president can be impeached for high crimes, treason, bribery and misdemeanors. The process begins with an investigation by the House Judiciary Committee or a separate House panel. Once the findings are completed, the House votes on whether to bring impeachment charges. A majority vote is required to pass articles of impeachment.
If the articles of impeachment are approved in the House, they are sent to the Senate for a trial. The Senate could dismiss the charges or assign blame.
The chief justice presides over the trial. A two-thirds majority vote is required for a conviction.
Impeachment proceedings have been brought against two past presidents, Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Neither president was convicted by the Senate.
Jones also discussed the latest developments in his efforts to get the Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act, a bill he introduced in February, through Congress. The Senate voted unanimously, 94-0, on a motion to instruct that signals their support of the action and its inclusion in the final National Defense Authorization Act budget for fiscal year 2020.
The bill was co-sponsored by 76 members of the Senate — 44 Democrats and 32 Republicans. If voted into law, the bill would eliminate a provision that deducts the insurance benefits that veterans paid into the Survivors Benefits Plan from the total amount of benefits paid to surviving spouses.
The issue affects 67,000 surviving spouses of service members who died of service-related injuries. It’s estimated that an average of $11,000 is denied annually to each of those spouses as a result of this rule.
A similar bill, introduced in the House in January, also has strong bi-partisan support with 371 co-sponsors. The bill is currently in the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel.
Similar legislation has been introduced in the past four congressional session.