WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) issued the following statement on the conclusion of the Senate impeachment trial:
“The siege of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was an attack on democracy itself. That night, shortly after the rioters had been cleared from the Senate floor, I spoke to urge my colleagues to support the state certifications of the election results as our constitutional duty, and as a signal that ‘we will not be intimidated’ and that ‘mob rule is not going to prevail here.’
“I have said that what President Trump did that day was inexcusable because in his speech he encouraged the mob, and that he bears some responsibility for the tragic violence that occurred. I have also criticized his slow response as the mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, putting at risk the safety of Vice President Pence, law enforcement officers, and others who work in the Capitol. Even after the attack, some of the language in his tweets and in a video showed sympathy for the violent mob. In response, I called on President Trump to ‘explicitly urge his supporters to remain peaceful and refrain from violence.’
“But the question I must answer is not whether President Trump said and did things that were reckless and encouraged the mob. I believe that happened. The threshold question I must answer is whether a former president can be convicted by the Senate in the context of an impeachment. This would be unprecedented. Consistent with the two votes I have already taken in this process, I believe the Constitution reserves the narrow tool of impeachment and conviction for removal of current officeholders and current presidents, and does not apply to former officeholders or former presidents. Impeachment in the Constitution is fundamentally about removing someone from office.
“I think the Framers of the Constitution understood that it would be inappropriate to allow Congress – an inherently political body – to convict former presidents. Instead, the appropriate place to address former officials’ conduct is the criminal justice system. In fact, the Constitution makes clear that former presidents are subject to the criminal justice system. That is where the issues raised by the president’s inexcusable actions and words must be addressed.
“I have a duty to uphold my oath to the Constitution and that’s why I voted as I did, on the state certifications of the election on January 6, on the jurisdictional issue earlier this week, and on the final vote on conviction today. My decision today in no way condones the president’s conduct. On the contrary, it is keeping an oath to the Constitution, that I believe the president did not keep on January 6.
“Our country is already deeply divided. My decision was based on my reading of the Constitution, but I believe the Framers understood that convicting a former president and disqualifying him or her from running again pulls people further apart. Instead, our task should be to help bridge the growing gaps that separate us. President Biden said in his inaugural address, ‘This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.’ I agree, and will continue to do my part to try to find that common ground to bring our country together to address the many challenges we face.”
NOTE: Portman’s statement earlier this week on the constitutionality of the Senate’s impeachment trial is here.