“There have been 15 impeachments in the history of the country. Two of them were cut short by resignations. In the other 13 impeachments there were witnesses… It’s not unusual to have a witness in a trial. It’s certainly not unusual to have witness in an impeachment trial.”
– Senator Mitch McConnell, Jan. 1999
“The whole point that we’re trying to make is that in every trial that there’s ever been in the Senate, regarding impeachment, witnesses were called… What I’m saying about witnesses is that if you take them off the table in the Senate… That would be bad for impeachment law. That would be against precedent, and I hope that doesn’t happen here.”
– Senator Lindsey Graham, Jan. 1999
“I’m not an impartial juror.”
– Senator Mitch McConnell, Dec 2019
“I have made up my mind. I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.”
– Senator Lindsey Graham, Dec. 2019
When Bill Clinton’s presidency was on the line, Senators McConnell and Graham argued passionately for witnesses. As both pointed out, witnesses were called in every previous impeachment trial in the Senate.
Then, when Donald Trump faced impeachment, both became dismissive of the need for witnesses. After all, why would you need witnesses in a trial?
But it gets worse…
A Show Trial in Reverse
Both McConnell and Graham swore an oath at the start of the trial. They swore to act as impartial jurors.
For the record, their oath says, “… that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of [NAME], I will do impartial justice, according to law.” That’s been the oath – with very little variation – since 1798.
When they took that oath, McConnell and Graham were lying. How do we know? Because both had already announced publically they had no intention of acting impartially. Is it a crime? Perhaps not.
But it certainly makes them liars. And violates the oath of office they took to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” and to “faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.”
Trump’s trial in the Senate has been like a show trial in reverse. It’s not the government railroading some poor sucker on false charges. It’s the party in power working hand in glove with the defense to assure an acquittal.
With McConnell and Graham leading the charge against the Constitution. And most of their party members following along like the obedient lapdogs they are.
Only two Republican Senators voted to hear witnesses. Which further added to the bizarre nature of this trial.
In a normal show trial, those in power parade out all sorts of false evidence. In Trump’s trial, those with the power have done all they can to blockevidence from being presented.
The damage they’re doing won’t just hurt our Democracy today. This sham trial is setting precedent. Which means it will haunt our nation for generations.
What if There’s “Nothing Wrong” With Abusing Power?
The President’s lawyers presented a strange argument. If the president believes his/her reelection is in the public interest, then he/she can do no wrong in seeking that reelection.
Use funds to force an ally to announce an investigation into a perfectly legal business relationship? No problem. It’s for the public good.
So how far does this concept carry? If a president thinks assassinating an opponent is necessary for his/her reelection, then that’sokay?
Alan Dershowitz, one of Trump’s lawyers, testified a president would have to commit a crime to trigger impeachment. But back in 1999, when Clinton’s career was in the balance, Dershowitz felt very differently.
“It certainly doesn’t have to be a crime,” Dershowitz claimed in 1998, “if you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty. You don’t need a technical crime.”
He couldn’t have described Trump more accurately with a crystal ball.
Too bad his crystal ball didn’t tell him there were no federal criminal statutes on the books when the Constitution was written. Divining the Founding Fathers’ thoughts isn’t quite as clear-cut as he’d like us believe.
The President’s defenders and enablers have decided a GOP president can do no wrong. They’ve closed ranks. And they’ve abandoned the Constitution. En masse.
But here’s the most important point: They’re still the minority party. And a significant faction within that party doesn’t support the Crook-in-Chief.
If we set aside our differences, true Americans – of all stripes – can send Trump packing. If not this coming week, then certainly in November.
And I can’t imagine any better reason to work together for the common good.
Barrett, T., “McConnell opposes impeachment witnesses now — but supported them during Clinton trial,” CNN(dot)com. Dec 16, 2019
Crowley, J., “Resurfaced Video Shows Lindsey Graham Arguing for Witnesses to Testify at Bill Clinton Impeachment Trial,” CNN(dot)com. Jan 7, 2020
Watkins, M., “Sen. Mitch McConnell on Possible Impeachment Trial: ‘I’m not an impartial juror’,” Courier-Journal. Dec 18, 2019.
Goldiner, D., “Lindsey Graham Says ‘not pretending to be fair juror’ on Trump Impeachment,” NY Daily News. Dec 14, 2019.
Beckwith, R.T., “Senator Oath for Trump Impeachment Trial Stirs Partisan Rancor,” Bloomberg(dot)com. Dec 21, 2019.
Mazza, E., “Alan Dershowitz’s Old Comments About Impeachment Come Back To Haunt Him,” HuffPost(dot)com. Jan 20, 2020.