When it comes to President Trump’s impeachment, Sen. Richard Burr had wisely kept his cards close to his chest. Until now.

Speaking on former N.C. governor Pat McCrory’s radio show Tuesday, Burr said that even if witnesses confirmed President Trump’s guilt in seeking a quid pro quo from Ukraine — even if Trump is proved to have tried to use his office to extort assistance against his likely presidential opponent, Joe Biden — Burr would not vote to remove Trump from office.

“The hearsay that John Bolton or anybody else may bring to this is irrelevant because even if the president said this, it does not raise to the level of removal from office, which is a sacred thing because the American people have duly elected him,” Burr said.

“I think (Trump defense attorney) Alan Dershowitz said it very well last night, ‘You blew it, House managers.’ The articles you’ve brought don’t rise to the level of removal from office,” Burr said. “And if the Senate did it, then look out in the future — every president will go through this.”

Burr is entitled to his opinion. Some will applaud his support for the president.

Even so, this assessment, before the trial is even concluded, is deeply disappointing. He has announced his verdict before the trial has even ended — and before final decisions have been made about witnesses and documents. Whether he concludes he is for or against Trump’s removal, he should wait until the trial has ended. He might learn something yet.

As chair of the Intelligence Committee, Burr is in a unique position to understand the implications of using military aid to Ukraine as a bargaining chip.

Ukraine is in a war against Russia, which poses a major threat to the security of both Europe and the U.S. Trump’s delay of critical assistance usurped the power of Congress and, according to the Government Accountability Office, violated the law.

Further, enlisting a foreign government to interfere in a U.S. election muddies that “sacred thing.” Are these really such trivial actions?

What if your constituents want you to remove the president, Sen. Burr?

And should Bolton’s witness be so easily dismissed as hearsay? He’s actually one of the firsthand witnesses Republicans have demanded we need.

In referring to the future, Burr echoed the claim from Trump’s legal defenders that if Trump were impeached for such, as he sees them, flimsy misdeeds, every future president is likely to be impeached.

The Democrats, on the other hand, have suggested that if Trump is not removed from office, no president will ever be removed for anything, no matter how criminal or immoral.

Neither statement is likely to be 100% accurate, but which outcome is riskier? Is it truly a danger that future presidents will have to watch their behavior to remain within legal and moral standards to avoid impeachment?

A Winston-Salem resident who attended Wake Forest University and maintains local ties, Burr has often been seen, by the Journal and others, as a level-headed moderate with the ability to put party aside for the good of the country. He has earned a reputation, through his work chairing the Intelligence Committee and his friendship with Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, a Democrat, for sobriety and bipartisanship. He’s served many causes we support, including nature conservancy and environmental protection. He has resisted some of the more extreme positions and offensive attitudes that have flowered under the Trump administration.

A decision to keep Trump in power isn’t one that’s going to destroy his legacy.

But if, as some predict, Trump sees acquittal as permission to engage in even more extreme behavior, Burr will be remembered as an enabler.

Burr is not seeking reelection. Unlike Sens. Lindsey Graham or Thom Tillis, he has nothing to fear from Trump’s Twitter feed. He still has an opportunity to garnish his legacy with much-needed sanity and transparency. He should reconsider his comments and instead insist today that the Senate call witnesses and documents so that he can judge more clearly and the American people can see for themselves the extent of Trump’s actions.

This trial is not over yet, Sen. Burr.

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