Trump Probably Committed Treason… But I’m Glad We Acquitted Him

As the Democrats decide on a presidential candidate, President Donald Trump is marching through America, rallying his supporters and raising money. He wields an incredible weapon that has already generated massive crowds and 46 million dollars since January: “absolute exoneration” from the “greatest witch hunt in American history” — the impeachment trial. 

But “absolute exoneration,” one of President Trump’s latest slogans, ignores many nuances in his trial, particularly how, in a 51-49 vote, the Republican-controlled Senate blocked former National Security Advisor John Bolton from providing possibly damning evidence.

However, it’s important to understand what went down in the House and Senate prior to the vote to silence him. Right from the start, the House’s passing of the articles of impeachment to the Senate suggested that there was enough evidence to validate the highest degree of necessary evidence: beyond a reasonable doubt. The Republicans agreed to the high burden of proof, and the trial began. But did the House Democrats really prove that Trump committed an abuse of power?

Let’s look into the evidence and witnesses. Does the infamous White House call with President Zelensky of Ukraine prove Trump’s culpability? In the call, Zelensky expressed a desire to purchase javelins from America to which Trump responded: “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.” Trump went on to voice two concerns, one of which centered around an investigation into the Bidens. 

Democrats say that Trump committed treasonous actions here because he pressured foreign officials to aid his personal and political desires. Yet Trump’s request for a favor after talking about military aid doesn’t definitively prove his motivations. Trump’s suspension of aid to Ukraine following this call was certainly suspicious but also doesn’t conclusively prove that Trump’s intentions were treasonous. However unlikely, he may have been genuinely trying to uncover corruption. 

To prove Trump’s intent, the Democrats pursued witnesses, one of whom was referenced in the phone call: Marie Yovanovitch, the Former Ambassador to Ukraine. Yovanovitch was abruptly recalled from Ukraine last May. In her testimony, she implied that Trump removed her because she would not have approved an investigation on the Bidens. Unfortunately, Yovanovitch was not on the phone call, nor involved in the decision to suspend aid for Ukraine. So while her testimony corroborated existing evidence, it didn’t help to prove Trump’s intentions. 

Realizing this, Democrats turned their attention to Gordon Sondland, the European Union ambassador at the time. Sondland revealed the White House’s backchannel in diplomacy with Ukraine. He said that Rudy Guilliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, had implied that this investigation into Joe Biden’s son should be crucial in their decision to end the suspension of aid. Although he brought the Democrats much closer to proving treasonous activity by digging into Trump’s inner circle of decision making, Sondland was not told by Trump himself to do any of these things. Instead, he inferred these instructions through Rudy Guilliani. 

So the Democrats had good evidence that Donald Trump probably committed treason but, without concrete evidence, they could not conclusively prove Trump’s motives. The House managers could not live up to the strict burden of proof in the articles.

Enter John Bolton. Recently retired, Bolton was ready to publish his book detailing his experiences with Trump, including the Ukraine ordeal. Moreover, unlike other witnesses, Bolton was in the room when Trump discussed his policies with Ukraine and could testify on Trump’s motives. When Democrats tried calling Bolton in, however, the trial was already beginning in the Republican-controlled Senate. Sure enough, the Republicans rejected efforts to call John Bolton in to testify.

The Democrats burst forth with insults. They called the trial a “sham” and attacked Republicans for being cowards who made no attempts to secure a fair trial: “No trial really happened, no witnesses were called, no testimony is given,” said Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

But after claiming that Republicans had failed to uphold their congressional duties (to hold a president accountable for his actions), Democrats violated their own as well.

Every Democrat in the Senate voted to convict. Meaning that every Democrat in the Senate claimed there was proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Trump’s actions were a treasonous abuse of power. But the evidence presented did not prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Sure, if they had gotten Bolton to testify, they may have enough evidence and sure, it was the Republicans’ fault that they couldn’t. But America’s justice system doesn’t convict because there may be evidence. Thus, the decision to convict Trump subverts the standard of proof for conviction and the justice system at large. 

When history looks back on this trial, every vote that was cast was tainted: every vote to acquit undermines the justice system by overlooking an unfair trial. And every vote to convict undermines the justice system by eroding the importance of evidence in a criminal trial.