The following is a statement from the CNMI House of Representatives leadership in response to Senate president Jude Hofschneider’s letter Wednesday, April 6, 2022.
Approximately 10 days after the transmittal of the House Impeachment record to the Senate, the Senate clerk issued a letter that claimed that the House Impeachment record was deficient, and that the Impeachment matter would be dismissed if the alleged deficiencies were not properly addressed within 48 hours. Based on a comparison between the applicable rules and the record that was submitted, we respectfully disagree.
The House clerk meticulously arranged and categorized everything in the Impeachment record. Nearly all of the House Impeachment record consists of documents that were submitted to the Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee by government witnesses and prepared by their taxpayer-paid attorneys. These documents were submitted to the JGO out of chronological order, pursuant to subpoenas and Open Government Act requests. Documents were submitted to the JGO with misspellings and typographical errors, and sometimes without dates. These documents still had evidentiary value. Long before the Senate Impeachment rules were adopted, the House organized these documents in a way that made sense and would be useful for prosecution of the governor in the Senate trial. Every page, every image, every video, and every transcript in the House Impeachment Record is exactly where it needs to be.
Nevertheless, given the limited time available, we made a good faith effort to address the concerns raised by the Senate clerk; however, we require a reasonable extension of time in order to address all of the issues raised. Despite our best efforts, the House cannot reorganize over 8,000 pages in 48 hours. This monumental task is simply not feasible. Moreover, what purpose would this total overhaul serve? For whose benefit?
We maintain that the House Impeachment record complies with the letter and the spirit of the Senate Impeachment rules. Significantly, under the CNMI Constitution, even if there were actual deficiencies in the House Impeachment record, only the full Senate can dispose of the Impeachment matter. The Impeachment of Gov. Torres cannot be decided by the Senate clerk, nor any one person within the CNMI Legislature. The House Impeachment record is not defective because some supporting documents are not in chronological order. The House Impeachment record clearly supports the Articles of Impeachment. With some help from the House prosecutors, the record speaks for itself.
The House Impeachment record shows theft and how the governor illegally obtained over $177,000 (and counting) in taxpayer-funded utilities. The record shows corruption and abuse of power. It lists over 54 premium-class airfare trips for himself and his spouse, and at least 85 boating trips accompanied by Boating Safety officers. All told, since 2015, the House Impeachment record shows that Gov. Torres misused and abused over $550,000 in CNMI and federal funds, to cover his illegal airfare, his lodging for personal vacations and political events, and his reimbursements for other lavish personal items.
Impeachment is not about overruling of the will of the people. Impeachment is a protection that is provided by the CNMI Constitution for a very important reason: to protect the Commonwealth from public officials who abuse their power. The House Impeachment record spans 8,000 pages and is replete with evidence of theft, corruption, and neglect over six years of Gov. Torres’ administration. This is a record that cannot be ignored and must not be dismissed.
The Senate has a solemn obligation to carefully review the House Impeachment record and hear the merits of the Impeachment case. They should weigh the evidence and seek the truth, not look for ways to dismiss the record and end this Impeachment based on technicalities.
It is our collective hope that the Senate will take the opportunity to review the Impeachment Record closely and methodically. If they did so, we are confident the Senate would reach the conclusion that there is sufficient evidence to convict Gov. Torres. We also continue to hope for a fair trial before the Senate, with a team of House prosecutors duly appointed by the Speaker. We are ready to fully and vigorously present our case, as soon as the Senate is ready to hear it. (PR)