By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
For The Birmingham Times
U.S. Senator Doug Jones said he did his homework during the recent impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, feeling equal parts judge, jury and attorney for both sides.
Speaking on Friday, February 7, in the Regions Room of Cooney Hall at Samford University, Jones, a Democrat, displayed stacks of ringed notebooks filled with notes he and his staff compiled as they examined the information related to charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress against the President.
The former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama said his conclusion was clear.
“I just think the evidence was compelling,” Jones told students from the Cumberland School of Law, where he earned his juris doctorate degree in 1979. “Despite the (President’s) approval ratings, despite the good things you have in the economy, the Constitution doesn’t address that. It addresses, in my view, conduct that is outside the oath of office, conduct that does not put the national interest above all other interests.
“In this particular case, I thought everything that was done, from the withholding of military assistance to an ally, a friend who badly needed it, as well as the obstruction of Congress,” he continued, “the evidence was just compelling enough that I felt like I had to vote to convict.”
Last week, the Senate vote on both impeachment articles fell short of the required 67 votes in the Republican-dominated Senate to remove Trump.
Trump in a Tweet on Sunday lashed out at Jones as a “lightweight” and called his vote to convict “partisan.”
Jones responded humorously to the “lightweight” reference.
“Thanks! Haven’t been complimented about my weight in a while,” Jones tweeted. “Regardless Mr. President, thank you for signing into law the 17 bipartisan bills that I sponsored that will help folks in Alabama.”
At Samford, the Senator was all business when he spoke for nearly an hour before fielding questions in a fireside-styled chat with Cumberland Dean Henry C. “Corky” Strickland. Jones said he was not at the university to change minds.
“I am not here to try to convince anyone I made the right decision. I’m not here to convince anyone I made the wrong decision,” he said. “Only time will tell how history will judge this.”
Instead, he wanted to tell law students how he “put together the pieces of the puzzle.”
“You cannot look just at that transcript, the non-perfect transcript,” Jones said. “You have to look at everything that happened. When you do, the pieces of the puzzle will come into focus.
The impeachment trial produced a partisanship much worse than what was seen in the impeachments of Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton, Jones said. And he didn’t spare members of his own party.
Many Democrats tainted the process from the beginning, disliking the President so much that they wanted him impeached from the time he took his hand off the Bible after he was sworn into office on January 20, 2017, Jones said.
“But not just Democrats,” he said. “It was like ‘Alice in Wonderland.’”
Defending The Constitution
Jones said he didn’t take an oath to defend the President or to defend the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. “I took an oath to defend the Constitution,” he said, “and to do impartial justice.”
As Jones runs for re-election, he said some are trying to put him into a corner of being a Socialist and a Leftist.
“I personally don’t think there are going to be that many people (for whom) this is going to be the defining image they’ll cast their vote on,” the Senator said. “If it is, I was never going to get those votes any way.
“We’re going to be talking to people about the kitchen table issues like I did in 2017 and what I’ve done for the people of Alabama and we’ll let the chips fall where they’re going to fall.”
Jones said he was disappointment by some of the President’s public statements since the acquittal.
“This president has an opportunity to get things done in a real bipartisan way and you don’t do that by just throwing firebombs in the middle of a prayer breakfast,” he said of Trump’s appearance (at the National Prayer Breakfast in the Washington Hilton hotel) on Thursday. “There (are) opportunities there if he wants to take them. But if he wants to continue to stoke this partisanship in our country, it’s not going to be good for the country as a whole because Democrats will push back and it’s hard not to.”
Jones said he was disappointed that [House] Speaker Nancy Pelosi tore up the President’s speech after his State of the Union address (Tuesday, February 4).
“We have got to figure out ways that we can come together and be above the fray,” said Jones. “We can talk about our politics but we’ve got to be above it to try to find a common ground. It is the only way that America is going to move forward.”
Associated Press contributed to this post.