(Editor's note: Below is a statement submitted by Sen. Menendez into the official Senate record on Tuesday, Feb. 4, explaining his votes to convict President Donald J. Trump on both articles of impeachment. On Wednesday, Feb. 5, the senator voted to convict on both articles of impeachment considered.)
I have always been, and always will be, an ardent believer in our system of three co-equal branches of government, at times working with each other and at times working as a check against each other.
It is this system of checks and balances that safeguards our Republic against tyranny, and ensures that our government by the people, for the people, as Abraham Lincoln said, does not perish from this earth.
What the facts of this trial have shown, and what every member of the Senate knows in their heart, is that President Trump did exactly what the House has accused him of doing in the two articles of impeachment levied against him: abusing his power and obstructing Congress.
These articles strike at the very heart of a Republic ruled not by men but by laws, and the very notion of a government elected by and for the people.
I took my constitutional oath to do impartial justice seriously. I came to this trial with an open mind, listened to both sides and waited for the facts to persuade me.
But in all the many days and hours that I sat through this trial, not once did I hear any evidence suggesting that President Trump did not do the things charged by these articles of impeachment.
Not once did I hear the President’s team make a compelling defense.
Instead, I heard a damning case from the House managers. A case that laid out, in sobering detail, how the President of the United States subverted our national security interests and solicited interference from a foreign power for his own personal political benefit.
The facts show that President Trump used U.S. security assistance and an official White House meeting— two of Ukraine’s highest priorities— not to advance our national security, but rather for his own 2020 re-election effort.
And in doing so, he violated the law, known as the Impoundment Control Act, and undermined Congress’s constitutional authority.
As Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I want to make something clear: When a foreign adversary like Russia interferes in our elections, it is not for the benefit of the American people. It is not for the benefit of the United States. It is for Russia’s benefit.
America provides foreign assistance to countries all over the world because it benefits our interests. We help Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression because it is the right thing to do for our national security.
But when U.S. officials tell Ukraine that, in order to get the Oval Office meeting their President wants and the security assistance Ukraine urgently needs, their government must announce investigations into President Trump’s political opponents, that’s not advancing our national security – that’s corrupting it.
That’s forcing a foreign country to choose between its own security and getting unwittingly involved in another country’s elections.
When we turn our back on Ukraine in the midst of their fight against Russian aggression, in the midst of their efforts to free themselves of Soviet-era corruption and create a democracy accountable to its people, we turn our backs on that very fight against Russian aggression.
When we use U.S. foreign assistance as a political pawn, not a national security tool, we weaken our standing and credibility in the world.
Ukraine needed the United States to fight back against Russian aggression, and yet when it sought our military assistance, instead of sending it right away, the President of the United States said, “I would like you do us a favor, though.”
The damage of that message cannot be undone, and if we don’t hold this President accountable, then we are saying it’s OK to do it again.
I fear the consequences of this President’s actions, and I fear the consequences of our own inaction. Not just for today or this year, but for years to come, when we have to explain to our allies, “trust us, we’ll be there.”
Or when we tell the American people “trust us, we’re doing this in the name of U.S. national security.”
Or when we press other countries about strengthening the rule of law and holding free and fair elections.
If we do not rein in this conduct, if we do not call it the abuse of power that it is, then we have failed to live up to the ideals of our Republic.
And I fear we have already let the American people and our Constitution down by failing to hold a fair trial.
There is no American across this country who would call a trial without witnesses and documents a fair trial. They would call it a sham.
In failing to hold a fair trial, the Senate is complicit in the President’s obstruction of Congress, the very essence of the House’s second article of impeachment.
The House had a constitutional prerogative to conduct an impeachment and oversight investigation.
Yet, President Trump engaged in unprecedented obstruction in order to cover up his misconduct, by blocking witnesses with firsthand knowledge, by denying access to any documents, by publicly disparaging and threatening those with the courage to defy his orders and testify publicly, and by casting aside a co-equal branch of government as if he can really do, as he himself said, “whatever he wants.”
When a president tries to extort a foreign government for his own political aims, and in doing so, ignores the law and the Constitution, the only remedy can be that which our Framers gave us: impeachment and removal.
The Framers knew this day would come. They knew the threat of an executive who welcomed or solicited foreign interference in our elections was real.
What the Framers of our Constitution never could have imagined is that there would come a day when the United States Senate would shrink in the face of a President who would behave like a King—when Senators would defend him not out of principle, but out of willful ignorance and blind party loyalty.
The Senate’s failure to conduct a fair trial casts doubt on the ultimate verdict. This is not an exoneration of a President; it is the coronation of a King.
I believe that the day we failed to remove this President will go down in history as a day of constitutional infamy.
It will be remembered as a dark day for our democracy, a dark day for our national security, and a dark day for our Constitutional order.
I ask my Senate colleagues, what future damage to our national security and the integrity of our elections will we enable if the Senate says that it’s okay for a President to extract political favors from a foreign power?
What will be left of our system of checks and balances if there are no consequences for obstructing investigations, blocking witnesses from testifying, and withholding critical evidence from Congress?
How much more shredding of the Constitution can we as a nation possibly endure?
We already know President Trump believes he can go to war with Iran without a congressional authorization. He believes he can misuse congressionally-appropriated funds for whatever he wants, like taking billions from the Department of Defense and spending it on a border wall that every day proves itself to be a colossal waste.
And through it all, the compliant and complicit Republican majority further emboldens this President, by eliminating the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominations, refusing to call witnesses with direct knowledge of the President’s dangerous misconduct, and further stripping the Senate of its David versus Goliath role, in which we serve as a check on a president’s vast executive powers.
If we, as a Senate, are prepared to say that this president, and all future presidents, from either party, can misuse congressionally-appropriated funding to extract political favors from a foreign power, can deny all witnesses, withhold all relevant documents, openly threaten ambassadors, career public servants, and Members of Congress; if a president can commit all of these gross abuses of power as he were above the law, then the very essence of our democracy is broken, and we must ask ourselves, what is left?
What is left of our Constitution if we are not prepared to defend it?
What is left other than lawlessness?
We need Republicans of conscience and courage to say more than just yes, the President did it and it was wrong.
We need our Republican colleagues to be intellectually honest and also say it’s impeachable, so that we can have a bipartisan defense of the Constitution and all that this nation stands for.
I for one am prepared to defend our Constitution.
I will vote guilty on the articles of impeachment, not because of loyalty to any party. Not because of how it will or will not play in any upcoming election.
I will vote for impeachment and removal not because I hate this President—because I don’t—but because I love this country more.
I took an oath to uphold the Constitution, and with this vote, I intend to keep it.