Schiff: Case Against Trump ‘Cannot be Decided at the Ballot Box’

January 23, 2020 Updated: January 23, 2020
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Voters shouldn’t have a chance to choose whether to re-elect President Donald Trump, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) argued in the Senate impeachment trial on Jan. 22.

Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager, claimed that he and others couldn’t be sure whether vote tallies in the 2020 election would be accurate if Trump remains in office.

“Impeachment exists for cases in which the misconduct of the president rises beyond mere policies and disputes to be decided otherwise and without urgency at he ballot box,” Schiff said during his opening arguments in Washington.

Trump attempted to use the powers of the presidency “to cheat in an election,” Schiff claimed.

“The President’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box, for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won.”

Democrats say that Trump’s request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “look into” corruption allegations surrounding former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son was an attempt to interfere in the 2020 election since Biden is a leading Democratic presidential candidate. Trump was impeached by House Democrats for abuse of office and obstruction of Congress last month. No Republican voted in favor of the articles.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
President Donald Trump, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speak during a meeting in New York on Sept. 25, 2019. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump has said he was doing his duty to root out corruption.

Schiff also argued on Wednesday that the courts couldn’t handle Trump, leaving the Senate to remove the president from office.

“Given the seriousness of the conduct at issue and its persistence, this matter cannot and must not be decided by the courts, which, apart from the presence of the chief justice today, are given no role in impeachments, in either the House or the Senate,” Schiff said. Litigation could take years, he added.

Schiff’s comments about the 2020 election were met with disdain by some other lawmakers, as well as constitutional scholars.

“As they see things, progressives by definition cannot suffer a legitimate political defeat,” Adrian Vermeule, a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School, remarked on Twitter.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) also took to social media to call Schiff’s charge that the election wouldn’t be fairly decided if Trump remained in office “an absurd statement from the twilight zone.”

“But while we’re here: I was told questioning American elections was fundamentally damaging to democracy. Any of those folks care to weigh in now?” he added.

Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.) added: “So Adam Schift [sic] admits his actions are meant to void the votes of millions of American voters because he doesn’t like their choice. Alexander Hamilton warned about political parties weaponizing Impeachment and here we have it!”

Schiff’s remarks came after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Democrats didn’t wait for courts to weigh in on executive privilege arguments because they wanted to impeach him before the 2020 election.

“They did not pursue these witnesses, because they knew the president would seek judicial redress, and it would literally stop them from impeaching him before the election,” he said.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber