As I reported last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, along with Lindsey Graham and other republicans in the Senate, clearly stated that he has no intention of conducting a fair and impartial impeachment trial, but that he plans to “coordinate with the White House” every step of the way. Well, that raised my hackles, for it is an intentional dereliction of his sworn duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution, but apparently it didn’t set too well with some others, as well.
First, Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, the only republican to have voted “Nay” to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, said …
“When I heard that I was disturbed. To me it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense, and so I heard what leader McConnell had said, I happened to think that that has further confused the process. For me to prejudge and say there’s nothing there or on the other hand, he should be impeached yesterday, that’s wrong, in my view, that’s wrong.”
While I applaud Senator Murkowski’s courage, I wish she had gone a step or two further. But, another voice of dissention has been heard, this one from an editorial piece in one of Mitch’s home state’s largest newspapers, The Louisville Courier-Journal.
The framers wanted to make sure the Senate would never take such a trial lightly — this oath requirement is over and above the oath each senator has already taken to support the Constitution. The Constitution does not set out the text of the trial oath, but the Senate rules do. Senators will ‘solemnly swear… that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God’
The presidential oath and the senatorial oath to be taken before an impeachment trial are kin. The president must act faithfully and without corruption. In those (presumably) rare situations in which the president has failed to be faithful, the Senate is required to be faithful in its adjudication of the case against him.
But we have already seen indications that McConnell has no intention of doing impartial justice. He has said that he does not consider himself an “impartial juror.” He is coordinating strategy with the White House. He has already called the case against the president “thin” and “incoherent.”
Every senator has a constitutional obligation of impartiality. But McConnell’s role as Senate leader makes his obligation even more important and crucial to the constitutional framework. This is not a time for political cynicism or constitutional faithlessness. McConnell’s loyalty to Trump should not overwhelm his loyalty to the Constitution. If he fails in this, he is not only violating his Article I oath but his Article VI oath.
The GOP line that the whole process is based on hearsay — not even accurate as an evidentiary matter — could be easily ameliorated by hearing from more people who have direct knowledge of Trump’s mendacity, abuse of power and attempts at cover-ups.
Short of declaring war, the Senate is about to conduct its gravest and most serious constitutional obligation — to exercise the “sole power to try” impeachments. All senators should take their obligation of faithful impartiality seriously, especially McConnell. History is watching, and it will be a harsh judge.
The editorial was written by Kent Greenfield, a sixth-generation Kentuckian, and professor of law and Dean’s Distinguished Scholar at Boston College … a man who knows of what he speaks.
I am encouraged that there is some backlash against McConnell’s stance, though it is far too little. At the very least, the full Senate should be appalled enough by McConnell’s remarks, the violation of his oath, that they would vote unanimously to remove him as Senate Majority Leader … perhaps put Senator Murkowski in that position. Otherwise, in the opinion of this writer, they will have lost all credibility for they will have failed We the People.
In other news, it was with deep sadness that I read yesterday that Representative John Lewis has been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, a deadly disease with a 5-year survival rate of only about 1%. Mr. Lewis is one of the most respected members of Congress, well-known for his Civil Rights activism back in the days of segregated lunch counters and Freedom Rides. He was beaten and arrested, but still he fought for the rights of African-Americans. And he says he will fight this, too …
“This month in a routine medical visit, and subsequent tests, doctors discovered Stage IV pancreatic cancer. This diagnosis has been reconfirmed.
While I am clear-eyed about the prognosis, doctors have told me that recent medical advances have made this type of cancer treatable in many cases, that treatment options are no longer as debilitating as they once were, and that I have a fighting chance.
So I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the Beloved Community. We still have many bridges to cross.
To my constituents: being your representative in Congress is the honor of a lifetime. I will return to Washington in coming days to continue our work and begin my treatment plan, which will occur over the next several weeks. I may miss a few votes during this period, but with God’s grace I will be back on the front lines soon.
Please keep me in your prayers as I begin this journey.”
If anybody can beat this, my money would be on John Lewis. I hope … I really hope that his fighting spirit can bring him through this … he is a good man and this nation needs him now as much as at any other time.