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Rep. John Lewis’ Somber Impeachment Plea: ‘We Do Not Have Kings. We Have Presidents’

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., said Trump is not a "king" and that the occasion of Trump's impeachment on Dec. 18, 2019, is a "sad day." Screen cap courtesy ABC News.

Donald Trump must be impeached for abusing power because “we do not have kings,” Georgia Congressman John Lewis, a Democrat and Civil Rights Era-luminary, said in an impassioned speech on the floor of the U.S. House, hours before the body is set to vote on two articles of impeachment.

“Madame Speaker, I rise with a heavy heart to support this resolution,” Lewis said. “When we came to Washington in 1961 to go on the Freedom Rides, we chose that day. When we came here on Aug. 28, 1963 for the March on Washington, it was joyful. We met with a young president—President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

“When we came here on Aug. 6, 1965 for the signing of the Voting Rights Act, we were excited, hopeful. We met with President Lyndon Johnson. But today, this day, we didn’t ask for this. This is a sad day. It’s not a day of joy.”

The somber speech proved a marked contrast to the pro-Trump members who spoke before and after him, often loading their speeches with partisan snipes and outright denying the facts surrounding Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into helping his 2020 re-election campaign and his efforts to obstruct Congress’ investigation of those efforts.

‘A Moral Obligation’

Republicans claimed that impeachment amounted to an attempt to overturn the “will of the voters”—despite the fact that three million more people voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 than Donald Trump. Republicans repeatedly ignored key witness testimony from members of Trump’s own administration in an attempt to further the White House’s discredited lies about the Ukraine issue.

Mississippi Congressman Trent Kelly, a Republican and military veteran, complained that he “spent two Christmases defending our country overseas and I get a measly 30-seconds to speak in this laughable process.” Then, he launched into a series of factually-challenged statements.

“Our president made a campaign promise to ‘drain the swamp.’ And there are those today relying on swamp creatures’ words to preserve the swamp,” he said, without noting that most of the alleged “swamp creatures” who testified against Trump last month were, in fact, members of Trump’s own administration.

Then, Kelly called the facts behind two impeachment articles—obstruction of justice and abuse of power—”lies,” without refuting or acknowledging any of the plethora of evidence supporting them.

“If the facts are so clear and indisputable, why is the minority leader begging for more witnesses?” Kelly said, referring to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s request for key White House figures whose testimony Trump blocked, despite lawful subpoenas from Congress.

The House cited Trump’s refusal to allow key figures to testify in response to lawful subpoenas while making its case that Trump obstructed justice.

When he spoke, though, Rep. Lewis asked Republicans to put the country—and the next generation—before partisan politics.

“Our nation is founded on the principle that we do not have kings. We have presidents. And the Constitution is our compass. When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something!” Lewis admonished his fellow members. “Our children and their children will ask us, ‘What did you do? What did you say?’

“For some, this vote may be hard. But we have a mission—and a mandate to be on the right side of history.”

‘No Other Alternative’

In 1965, John Lewis marched for Voting Rights in Selma, Ala., where he helped leading more than 600 activists across the Edmund Pettus Bridge there. Alabama law enforcement, though, charged the activists, beating them with nightsticks, and leaving Lewis with a fractured skull on the day now known as “Bloody Sunday.”

Mississippi Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, a Democrat who is only the second black member of the U.S. House from Mississippi since Reconstruction, also spoke out in favor of impeachment on Wednesday.

“Those who are against the impeachment inquiry are willing to turn a blind eye to constitutional violations by the president,” Thompson said. “As a nation, we have no other alternative. We must protect our constitution in the United States of America.”

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