Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is now the subject of an official ethics complaint in response to his intention to rig the impeachment trial in favor of President Donald Trump, and now some Senate Republicans are turning on him in favor of calling witnesses.
Even before the House passed two articles of impeachment against Trump charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his Ukraine scandal, McConnell appeared on Fox News and declared that he will coordinate the trial with the White House and rig the proceedings in Trump’s favor.
Of course, this is a blatant violation of the oath of impartiality senators recite prior to any such trial.
So, once McConnell takes the oath, he would be in violation of it, which is why advocacy group Public Citizen filed an ethics complaint on Monday.
“The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the authority to impeach and remove the president, vice president and other federal officers upon determination that such officers have engaged in treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” the complaint says. “The Senate has sole power to try and convict all impeachments by two-thirds of the members present. Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution states: “When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation.” The Constitution does not specify the contents of the oath, but the nature and structure of the Constitution suggest an obligation to administer impartial justice in impeachment proceedings.”
The complaint then pointed out that the Senate adopted a bipartisan oath back in 1986.
The “Rules of Procedure and Practice in the Senate When Sitting on Impeachments Trials,” drafted by former Sens. Robert Dole (R-KS) and Robert Byrd (D-WV) and adopted unanimously by the Senate in 1986, are more specific. They provide that “the presiding officer shall administer the oath hereinafter provided to the members of the Senate … whose duty it shall be to take the same.” (Rule III.) The form of the oath, which is set forth following the numbered rules, is: “I solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of ____ ____, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.”
The notion of impartial justice is crucial to upholding Constitutional values and securing the American people’s confidence in the essential fairness of any Senate trial.
There’s no way McConnell, or any other Republican for that matter, can possibly take this oath if they intend to run a sham trial to acquit Trump with complete disregard for the evidence and witnesses against him.
In another blow to McConnell and his scheme, however, some Senate Republicans appear to be finally recognizing how damaging a rigged trial could be, both to the party and their own political careers.
Currently, Republicans control the Senate majority with 53 votes, but the approval of witnesses only takes 51. That means only three Republicans need to join Democrats to vote in favor of calling witnesses, which could result in witnesses such as former National Security Adviser John Bolton and chief of staff Mick Mulvaney having to testify under oath during the trial.
Failure to allow witness testimony would go against public opinion considering the majority of Americans want witnesses to testify. Several Republicans are vulnerable to defeat in November, and that’s why some of them are starting to defy McConnell’s rejection of witnesses.
“My view is we should hear the case, ask our questions and then have a vote on whether we need to hear additional witnesses or call for additional documents,” Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said according to a Politico report. “It’s important to have a vote on whether we have witnesses or not.”
Alexander is retiring so he has nothing to lose. Meanwhile, Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) face tough re-election campaigns this year.
During a meeting, Ernst told McConnell that he needs to work with Democrats, even if that means allowing witness testimony.
“We need to start working together on procedures,” she said.
Even Collins is changing her tune by organizing a small group of Republicans to support witness testimony despite having joined McConnell against it earlier on.
Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who is not up for re-election, publicly defied McConnell on Monday by declaring his intention to vote in favor of witnesses.
“Barring some sort of surprise I’ll vote in favor of hearing witnesses,” he said. “I presume I’ll be voting in favor of hearing from John Bolton.”
If just three of those senators join Democrats, McConnell’s scheme to rig the impeachment trial will be much more difficult. And once witnesses testify, it will be harder for Republicans to vote for acquittal, that is unless the witnesses perjure themselves and the GOP lets them get away with it.
Regardless, McConnell is off to a bad start in 2020 and his year looks to worsen, especially if he loses his own re-election campaign. And no one except Trump deserves it more.
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