Editorial: Sen. Burr, show promised integrity and independence. Convict Trump

Posted February 13, 2021 5:00 a.m. EST
Updated February 13, 2021 9:08 p.m. EST

CBC Editorial: Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021; Editorial #8635
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

It was not an idle statement, when during his 2016 re-election campaign incumbent Republican Sen. Richard Burr said if he won, it would be his last term in the Senate.

He was sending a clear signal to North Carolina voters of all political affiliations. In his final term, Burr was saying he would not be tethered by political anchors. He would be liberated from having to play the partisan game to protect his re-election.  He signaled to Democrats and Republicans that his first interest would be what is best for all people in the state and nation – not necessarily what helps a re-election campaign or the GOP.

For Burr, this final term is about the legacy he’d leave of his 10 years in the House and 16 years in the Senate. His vote on whether to convict President Donald Trump on the impeachment charges being debated now will be the focus of that legacy.  A vote for impeachment would show his he put the nation first.  A vote against will mark him forever as just another go-along to get-along politico still fearful of Donald Trump’s bullying.

Over the last four years, Burr has struggled to separate his duty to the state and nation and the loyalty to the Republican Party. As the chairman of the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, it was not easy to assure independence of its investigation into foreign influence on the 2016 presidential election as Trump worked to suppress the effort and paint it as illegitimate.

The work of his committee, the report it produced, has given Burr more insight into Trump than most others. Failing to be a reflexively obedient lapdog to the president, Burr felt Trump’s bullying wrath – in the form of an FBI investigation into questionable financial transactions already being examined by appropriate financial regulators and the Senate Ethics Committee. Not so coincidentally, the day before Trump left office, the FBI said it closed the investigation.

Little of the evidence against Trump presented this week during the impeachment trial should come as any surprise to Burr. The insights Burr gained from what he learned during his Senate committee’s probe certainly must reinforce what’s been presented during the trial.

Burr and North Carolina’s junior Senator Thom Tillis cannot ignore the impact of Donald Trump’s behavior, and the insurrection he incited. Trump urged the mob repeating the lie that the election was flawed and marred by irregularities and proclaiming falsely that he’d won by a landslide.

Donald Trump’s acts have left the Capitol looking more like a chilly fortress than beacon of democracy.

The Capitol is walled off with a fence topped with razor wire. That was not the case prior to Jan. 6.

Hundreds of National Guard troops, fully armed and dressed for combat, surround the Capitol and patrol its hallways. That was not the case prior to Jan. 6.

The insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 happened because Donald Trump, for months, urged the mob on with falsehoods and baseless accusations. These vandals didn’t create the motivation for the insurrection out of their own imaginations.

NEVER, even as the rampage at the Capitol continued for hours, did Trump take any action to come to the aid of the besieged Capitol and law enforcement seeking to repel the attack. He did not, even as the mayhem ensued, say anything to try to stop it.

When the Senate votes on the charges against Trump, we know Tillis will have his finger up to measure the political winds. He won’t be gauging what’s best for the nation, the state or Congress. He’ll be checking what will keep him comfortable with the GOP in the Senate, prevent a re-election primary and position him to advance his political career.

Richard Burr promised in 2016 such shallow partisan factors would not be a part of his calculation.

When the roll is taken in the Senate, Burr’s vote won’t likely have much impact on the result. But he will be writing his political legacy. He can demonstrate that his loyalty is, as he pledges in his oath of office, to the Constitution and not to a president.  He can stand up for the truth and facts not falsehoods and lies.

He can unequivocally display the integrity and independence he promised. That would be a worthy legacy for any politician.

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