Tina Sablan calls out Hofschneider & hypocrisy

Rep. Tina Sablan, democrat candidate for governor of the CNMI, called out Senate President Jude Hofschneider and Gov. Ralph Torres’s cronies in the Senate for ignoring a glaring conflict of interest Mr. Hofschneider has in the impeachment trial of the governor.

Watch her speech and read the full text of it below:

“Governor Torres says he has nothing to hide. He says he’s done nothing illegal. But his actions speak louder than his words. Rather than testify under oath, he has sued the JGO Committee in Superior Court. And though he says he wants a fair trial, he is moving instead to avoid a trial altogether.

Governor Torres has yet to answer a single question under oath. Because he can’t. And now that he is facing criminal charges related to the same misconduct we examined in the House, he won’t.

His motion to dismiss consists entirely of legal gymnastics, gaslighting, and character assassination.

The governor’s counsel said my name no less than 30 times in an hour during his presentation on Wednesday. My name appears no less than 60 times in the written motion. Nobody has given me more free, unwarranted media attention than Governor Torres and his counsel.

Senators, what you heard on Wednesday was a lot of deflection and distraction. It was one-sided. You didn’t hear the House. You didn’t hear the impeachment record. You didn’t even hear Governor Torres because he hasn’t testified before you.

The governor’s motion to dismiss hangs heavily on the conflict of interest he alleges I had when I participated in the investigation of Torres’ misconduct and when I voted on impeachment.

I consulted with several attorneys before and after I accepted the Democratic nomination for governor. There was no conflict for me. The law prohibits public officials from voting on official decisions if they may benefit from the matter under consideration, unless the potential benefit is incidental to the position. A benefit is incidental if the official receives it by virtue of holding that position. A salary is incidental to a position. That is the case here.

However, I am still just a candidate for governor and we have a long way to go before November. The potential benefit of the governor’s salary is not only incidental, it is also totally speculative for me. In other words – I still have to win an election regardless of what happens with Ralph Torres in impeachment. In the meantime, I remain a legislator, with a job to do and a constitutional oath to faithfully uphold. And I will continue to do so as long as I am in office.

That said, I appreciate and share Attorney Aguon’s confidence in the strength of my candidacy for governor. He talked at length about the financial benefits I would stand to gain when I am elected, but left out an obvious fact: if the Senate votes to remove Governor Torres from office, one person in this Chamber would immediately benefit: the Senate President, who would ascend to Lieutenant Governor, as the Constitution provides. So why is Mr. Aguon not calling out the Senate President? Why is he not accusing him of conflict and demanding his recusal?

Would it be different if the Senate President was a Democrat? Is there a close familial relationship between the Senate President and the Governor’s counsel that has not been disclosed? What about the relationship between Mr. Aguon and his co-counsel Viola Alepuyo, who helped draft the rules for the Senate’s impeachment trial? No conflict there? Maybe just a lot of hypocrisy.

Now let’s talk about the will of the people. The will of the people that elected a new majority leadership in the House in 2020, that promised to hold Governor Torres accountable for his misconduct in office. The will of the people that was expressed in last October’s special election, when more than 60-percent of the voters of Precinct 3 chose Corina Magofna, who openly supported impeachment. And the will of the people expressed by 15 Democrat, Independent, and Republican members of the House, who collectively represent 89-percent of the voters across the commonwealth, and who voted to impeach Ralph Torres.

Senators, you would be ignoring the will of the people to dismiss the impeachment charges without conducting a fair trial.

Impeachment is in the constitution for a reason. Impeachment is not about undoing the will of the people. Impeachment is about protecting the people and respecting their right to a government that is free from corruption. Contrary to what the governor argues, there are no technicalities, no constitutional violations or conflicts of interest that would justify your dismissal of the articles of impeachment without real due process in an actual trial.

Ultimately, Senators, the real question before you is not whether Ralph Torres should be impeached. He’s already been impeached. The question before you is whether he should be removed. Whether he should be allowed to continue inflicting damage on the office he holds and the public trust he has been given. Only you, the Senate, can decide that.”

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