By Sen. John Thune

R-South Dakota

The U.S. Senate has only confronted a presidential impeachment trial three times in American history. The first was President Andrew Johnson’s trial in 1868, which reflected the lingering divisions of the Civil War. The second was President Bill Clinton’s trial more than 130 years later in 1999. At that time, I was serving South Dakota as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. I assumed and hoped that would be the last time I would be involved with the very rarely used impeachment provision in the U.S. Constitution. Regrettably, it was not.

Impeachment is extraordinarily divisive and disruptive. It is, after all, overturning the will of the American people by attempting to remove a duly elected president from office.

Our Founding Fathers intended impeachment to be an extreme remedy used only in extreme circumstances. The history of the Constitutional Convention clearly demonstrates that impeachable behavior must meet a very high threshold. To guard against misuse of this extraordinary power, the Founders split the impeachment power — assigning the authority to impeach solely to the House of Representatives and the power to try impeachments solely to the Senate. As a final check, the Founders required a two-thirds supermajority vote in the Senate to remove a president from office.

For this third presidential impeachment trial in American history, I literally had a front-row seat. My Senate desk is in the front row of the chamber, and I was able to look squarely at the participants in this historic constitutional proceeding.

In the end, I joined a majority of the Senate in voting to acquit the president. My conclusion was based on four key considerations: the facts of the case, the threshold imposed by the Constitution for conviction and removal from office, the deeply flawed and completely partisan House process that led to this impeachment, and the fact that there’s a national election just months away from now.

I listened carefully to the House managers’ case, which included the testimony of more than a dozen witnesses and nearly 30,000 pages of documents. I entered the Senate trial with an open mind, knowing the president’s team would be afforded the fairness and impartiality that were lacking in the House’s highly partisan and one-sided process. In total, I listened to nearly 70 hours’ worth of testimony, questions and answers from both the House managers and the president’s counsel. While we can debate the president’s judgment, or even conclude that his actions were inappropriate, I determined that this case did not meet the high threshold that our Founders envisioned.

Rescinding the results of a democratic election would be incredibly disruptive under any circumstance, but that’s especially true when there is a presidential election less than 10 months from now. It is the American people, not a bunch of Washington politicians, who should decide this case. I believe a sizable majority of South Dakotans share that view and wanted me to vote to acquit the president. That is how I cast their vote in the Senate.

At one point in the trial, during one of our breaks, a senator from the other side of the aisle approached me on the floor and said, “I sure hope we can still work together when all of this is done.” Throughout this process, there were strong, and at times heated, arguments made by the House managers and the president’s team. Republicans expressed their opinions, and Democrats expressed theirs. But I strongly believe that we should always follow the rule that we can disagree without being disagreeable. This period in our history should be no different, and I look forward to working with my colleagues — Republican and Democrat — now that this trial is finally behind us. Let’s get back to business.

(11) comments

E pluribus

You and the Senate successfully defended the President and prevented any witness testimony. So for now, this is all for the Judgment of History, which will not be written by FoxNews.

What's important is this: Trump sided with our sworn enemies, the Russians, and chose his interests and theirs over America’s - that’s disqualifying for any American leader.

And that’s the minimum standard for future generations. The threat to us all is far more serious than Clinton’s lying about a sexual dalliance, or arguably even Andrew Johnson’s foiling of Reconstruction.

You’ve made your choice before History, but if the President weren’t impeached - then nothing is ever impeachable.


Yes. Nothing to see here folks. Let's move on. Thank you and your Senate so much, Mr. Thune. The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body is helping me make Russia Great Again!


So basically, it was okay to impeach Clinton for simply cheating on his wife and it was okay to start the process with Nixon (which you left out and I'm assuming it was because of his party) but it wasn't okay to have the trial for Trump who was willing to allow a foreign country to interfere with our democratic election. And Trump disclosed secret information with a foreign country so he could dig up dirt on a political rival. And Trump then tried to cover it up. Which sounds awfully familiar to that other impeachment process that was started for Nixon. I get you were only talking about ones that went to trial but I feel like you leaving out that process is rewriting history to fit your agenda.

Be Republican all day long; but don't pretend Trump is a good president. The one thing he's done so far, other than messing up our country even more, was to start building a wall that 1) can't even stand up and 2) is very easily passed through/over. But then, what have you done in the past 5 years other than sucked up to Trump.


Nice cover-up, Senator. You agree with Alan Dershowitz that a President can do whatever he wants while in office. It's nice to know that the GOP is the party that wants an autocracy not a democracy. I hope you guys are destroyed in November. #GOPCoverUP

Tena T.

No truth and no transparency then no trump, no thune and no rounds. South Dakota needs to stand up for America and not for the corrupt politicians that will have you believe that what trump did was not a crime. I am fairly certain that if you or I had done this we would go to jail and I am just betting they would allow witnesses. The Senate has failed to pass any significant legislation this past year. Check out what our do nothing Republican Senators are doing for their pay. Oh yea electing judges and trying to cover up crimes in the white house.

Tena T.

Lets get back to work. Doing what Mr Thune? Confirming a few judges and covering up lies from the White House. Because you and Mr Rounds are a waste of tax payer money. You have failed to pass any significant legislation for the past year. And now you provide cover to one of the biggest liars in presidential history. If any one else had done what trump did we would be in jail for extortion and I'm fairly sure the other side would be calling witnesses. America needs to stand for truth and democracy not for lies and deception. Vote no trump, no thune and no rounds. They really don't deserve capital letters.

Jolly Roger

Mr. Thune, they’ll be no “moving on” the way you wish. You’re South Dakota’s Neville Chamberlain, hoping for “Peace in our Time.” But you've unleashed The Donald to do whatever he wants. Look at each day’s news - it’s already started. He knows you and the Republican Senate have his back no matter what he does. And you and the GOP will own each outrage.

Instead of “moving on” the way you hope, your man is emboldened to “move on” each of his enemies unrestrained. Fasten your seatbelt belt, Senator, the ride is just getting started.


It’s funny, Senator Thune. So far no one is stepping forward to tell us that what appears to be your craven cowardice is somehow actually noble courage.

I think you’ve unleashed a monster. Could it cost you both your reputation and the GOP Senate? And Trump is just getting started exacting his revenge on his enemies - real and imagined. Stay tuned - it’s a long way to November. 🙈🙉🙊

Friedrich Farmer

Mr. Thune, what exactly is this “business” you want to get back to? House Democrats have passed nearly 400 bills, and you and Moscow Mitch are just sitting on them.

It seems the only “business” of the Senate is protecting a lawless president.


Mr. Thune, Senate Republicans blocked three election security-related bills just this Tuesday. It was their latest attempt to prevent legislation ahead of our November elections. Is this your “Back to Business” - helping your man steal the next election? I’m about to pick a new name for myself.


Senator John Thune did not "confronted a presidential impeachment trial." He is supposed to be a leader of the U.S. Senate but he caved into jelly because Donald Trump wrote a mean tweet.

Partisanship and avoiding Trump's wrath is far more important to Mr. Thune than being an honest juror in an impeachment trail. Senator Thune violated his oath of office to protect the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and DOMESTIC.

John Thune: A Profile in Cowardice.

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