Let There Be Witnesses!

Let There Be Witnesses! January 20, 2020

The Senate trial of President Donald Trump begins effectively tomorrow. It is basically a constitutional matter. Has President Trump violated his oath of office in protecting and adhering to the Constitution, which is the law of the land, by committing activities that can be judged as “high crimes and misdemeanors”? The House has said that he has by presenting two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in its inquiry. It is now up to the Senate to decide whether or not it is so.

President Trump’s legal team has already requested that the Senate dismiss the case outright, thus without holding a trial. I doubt that would be following the Constitution. And it would be absolute political suicide for Republicans in the Senate to get this case thrown out. But the main issue is whether or not there will be witnesses in the trial.

Senate Democrats who are in the minority, with 46 members out of 100, are calling for witnesses in the trial. One reason is that John Bolton, the president’s former National Security Advisor, had followed Trump’s demand not to testify before the House impeachment investigation, whereas after it was completed, Bolton announced that if subpoenaed by the Senate he would testify in its trial. Why he said no then and yes now may have something to do with his book deal. So far, the Republican majority leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, and the president’s legal team have said they do not want witnesses. Yet polls show that 70% of U.S. voters want witnesses for this trial.

Trump has always been saying this impeachment of him is “a witch hunt” and “a hoax.” Well, if it is, why doesn’t he try to prove it by calling his people who worked for him to testify, such as Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Vice President Mike Pence, acting White House Chief of Staff Miçk Mulvaney, and perhaps others?

It is so obvious why Trump does not want witnesses even though he has lied about that in the past, saying he wants witnesses. Trump has something to hide. If he doesn’t, he wouldn’t object to witnesses. Rather, he would encourage it so they might exonerate him. The Democratic politicians have been saying this throughout the whole process, and they are obviously right about it. And folks, as I have said many times on my blog, I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat. I just speak out on what I think is right.

But what about all these Evangelicals who had a lot to do with putting Trump in the White House? What do they have they say about this matter? Are they being faithful to the Constitution in calling this impeachment process a hoax and that the Senate should dismiss it, with no trial and, if a trial, no witnesses? Christians are supposed to let the Bible be their rule of faith. I think it should be the same for American-voting Christians regarding the Constitution.

The Torah says, “Only on the evidence of two or three witnesses shall a charge be sustained” (Deuteronomy 19.15 NRSV). This law previously states that one witness is not enough. The point is that there must be witnesses when someone is charged with wrongdoing, and there must be at least two corroborating witnesses.

This law then states soberly, “If a malicious witness comes forward to accuse someone of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days, and the judges shall make a thorough inquiry. If the witness is a false witness, having testified falsely against another, then you shall do to the false witness just as the false witness had meant to do to the other. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. The rest shall hear and be afraid, and a crime such as this shall never again be committed among you. Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (vv. 16-21).

This is civil justice. Jesus affirmed the principle of this law for the church. But since he was not addressing civil justice, he substituted for its listed penalties excommunication from the church community. He said, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18.15-17).

So, let there be witnesses!

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