Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
New Mexico Democratic Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall voted to convict President Donald Trump during his impeachment trial Wednesday.
“This is not a process I wanted to be involved in when I first ran for the Senate,” Heinrich said in a phone interview with the Journal. He said he felt “duty bound” to vote for conviction on the impeachment articles, saying he was concerned the president did not understand the restraints put on the office “by the law or the Constitution.”
Udall, who announced his decision Tuesday, said the evidence that the president used his office and taxpayer funds for personal gain was “staggering.”
“He got caught red-handed, and immediately commenced a scorched earth blockade in Congress and the courts to cover up his grave misdeeds,” the state’s senior senator said of the president, who was acquitted along an almost party-line vote.
Only Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah crossed party lines, voting for conviction on the article charging Trump with abuse of power.
“It was one of the most courageous votes I’ve seen in Congress,” Heinrich said.
Heinrich said the president’s defense team had every opportunity “to present us with evidence that would explain his actions or give us reason to doubt this clear fact pattern.”
“Instead, they shifted their defense away from the damning facts and embraced an extreme legal philosophy that would allow any president to abuse their power and ignore the law,” he said.
Udall said the president was guilty “by any standard.”
“If he is allowed to act with impunity, he will be a continuing threat to the sanctity of our democracy,” he said. “He is patently unfit to hold the highest office in our land.”
Udall said despite the vote for acquittal, Trump was not exonerated, “not by this sham trial.”
He said history would not acquit the president.
Heinrich said the president “pressured the government of Ukraine, an American ally, not for our national security interests, but for his own selfish and corrupt political interests.”
“When he was caught, he sought to cover it up by suppressing documents and preventing witnesses from testifying before Congress and the American people,” the senator said.
Heinrich said most presidents learn lessons from processes such as impeachment.
“And some of my Republican colleagues communicated that hope,” he said. “But based on his comments in the State of the Union address, I don’t believe that will be the case with this president.”
The state Republican Party praised the acquittal, calling the impeachment a “sham” and a “charade.”
“It’s time to move forward and continue to build on the president’s success in growing jobs, fighting terrorism, improving health care for all Americans and making America great again,” Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce said.
U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., called the trial “an insult to our democracy.”
“It’s clear that President Trump abused his power and put our national security at risk, and no matter what else happens, he will always be impeached,” Haaland said.
“This is a dark moment,” U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján said. “President Trump corrupted this country’s rule of law when he put his interests ahead of the country’s to advance his own political needs. The evidence of his wrongdoing is undeniable.”