All the President’s Senators

The Democratic House managers have concluded their opening arguments in support of removing Donald Trump from the presidency. The House managers have proven themselves as fierce and noble defenders of the constitution. They’ve spent hours upon hours providing senators with the evidence they gathered from the House impeachment inquiry. However, they’re trying to hold truth to power without access to the whole truth. 

For anyone who has their finger on the political pulse of Washington, it’s probably inevitable that the trial will end in an acquittal. Many Republican senators have already indicated their position on impeachment: they don’t think Trump’s actions warrant removal from office. It’s been precarious as it is for Democrats to find just four Republican senators willing to vote in favor of witnesses and documents. In order for Trump to be removed from office, there would have to be at least twenty Republican senators willing to convict. The majority of Republican senators don’t even want to have a fair trial. In fact, one could easily make the argument that it’s a trial in name only.

There have been numerous senators who’ve expressed their prejudice before the trial even began –not even giving the pretense of impartiality. The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, himself expressed partiality on Fox News before the articles of impeachment were even transmitted to the Senate. McConnell admitted he was coordinating with the White House. If senators act as jurors, then McConnell is essentially the jury foreman. McConnell expressing partiality and admitting coordination with the White House is a betrayal of his oath of office and an affront  to the People. 

While McConnell has already tilted the scales of justice in Trump’s favor, he’s also intent on excluding witnesses and relevant documents. These are witnesses and documents that Trump has expressly forbidden, which is the first time in American history that a president has completely refused to cooperate with an impeachment proceeding. Moreover, this could also be the first time in American history that no witnesses were called to testify during an impeachment trial.

Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the House was countered by a second article of impeachment: obstruction of Congress. This, in and of itself, is a violation of the constitution. Congress is a co-equal branch of government. By refusing to cooperate with Congress, Trump has defied the checks and balances every American child learns about in school. If he refuses to comply with our duly-elected representatives, how could his power possibly be checked and balanced? How could he be held to account for anything? 

As for the intention of excluding witnesses and documents from the trial, it’s not Trump who’s accountable –it’s the Republican senators who will need to account for this trespass against the constitution and the People. The Republican senators swore an oath to the constitution and an oath of impartiality for the impeachment trial. If they vote against the inclusion of witnesses and documents, make no doubt about it: they’re voting to cover up Trump’s crimes.

Republican senators have claimed there isn’t enough evidence to convict Trump, yet they aren’t willing to vote in favor of witnesses and documents (i.e. evidence). This alone should inform every American that they’re acting with impartial intent. If they were faithfully seeking the truth, they’d welcome witnesses and documents. Their legacies can’t handle the truth, which is the crux of matter. 

Despite the withholding of witnesses and evidence, the House managers have compiled and presented a trove of evidence against Trump. And that’s the problem for Republican senators: there’s too much evidence to convict Trump as it is. Therefore, voting in favor of witnesses and documents would only make them look even worse for ultimately voting to acquit Trump. Again, their legacies can’t handle the truth.

In the grand scheme of things, this trial isn’t just about Donald Trump. It’s about the senators sitting as jurors. The integrity of the Senate itself is on trial. The irony is the Republican senators are obstructing their own institution by refusing to vote for witnesses and documents. Therefore, they’re refusing to include pertinent evidence in arguably the most important trial in American history. 

Despite being forced to fight in a fixed match with one arm tied behind their backs, the House managers have proven themselves to be worthy of the historic task in front of them. With the state of the union being so shameful and bleak, the House managers have become a beacon of light for a country engulfed in darkness. They are the rightful defenders of the constitution. 

During his opening arguments, lead impeachment manager, Representative Adam Schiff couldn’t have set the stage for removal any better. His command of the evidence and his ability to dispense that evidence in a compelling and impassioned narrative is truly extraordinary. And by laying out their case so methodically, Republican senators can never say they were ignorant of the facts. As House manager, Representative Hakeem Jeffries, said during the trial, “If you don’t know, now you know.” 

The Republicans senators know, even the most dedicated Trump sycophants in the Senate, like Senator Lindsey Graham, knows. If they truly believed Trump was being falsely accused, they’d want witnesses and documents in order to vindicate him, but of course they don’t want any more evidence because it’s more evidence of their unwillingness to hold a corrupt president to account. It’s more evidence that they put their own self-interest above the well being of the country. And it’s more evidence that they are the senators who are willing to let the republic fall as a dictator rises in its place.

When John F. Kennedy was in the Senate, he wrote Profiles in Courage, a book about American senators who displayed extraordinary courage in the face of political pressure. In the book he writes, “A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality.” 

We’ll soon find out which senators will forever have their legacies cast as a profile in cowardice. 

The Impeachment Trial: Minutes to Midnight

As we await the impeachment trial in the Senate, the future of our democracy hangs in the balance. There were two articles of impeachment that were drafted and adopted by the House of Representatives. Once the articles of impeachment are formally sent to the Senate, Mitch McConnell will have control over how the trial is conducted. 

The problem now, which shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who’s aware of his foul tactics to obstruct congressional proceedings, is McConnell has already made his intent clear: he’s coordinating with the White House on the impeachment trial and intends to conduct it with futility. 

This is an affront to the constitution itself –the very reason Trump was impeached in the first place. McConnell declared he wouldn’t allow for witnesses to appear before the Senate. He also won’t allow for relevant documents –documents the Trump administration refused to turn over to the House– to be turned over into evidence for the trial in the Senate. 

Our judicial system is far from perfect, but if the core principles of a judicial proceeding aren’t being followed, how could justice ever be faithfully dispensed? The senators are literally the jury in this trial. They have the collective power to vote to remove Trump as president. If the senators are jurors, then McConnell is effectively the foreman of the jury. Anyone who’s reported for jury duty knows the justice system doesn’t want jurors who are overtly prejudice, bias, or who have the intention of being partial. And yet, McConnell has already publicly stated that he’ll be coordinating with the White House. Trump is the defendant in this trial. Just imagine how a criminal trial would unfold if the jury foreman was “coordinating” with the defense. Imagine how fair a trial would be if no witnesses were permitted to testify before the jurors. And imagine how fair that trial would be if the defense wasn’t obligated to turn over all relevant documents to the court. It wouldn’t be fair and that’s McConnell’s objective. 

Just a few days ago, McConnell’s home-state newspaper, the Courier-Journal, published an Op-Ed by law professor Kent Greenfield, saying McConnell is about to violate two of his oaths of office. The first oath being the oath every senator takes: to “support and defend the constitution.” The second oath is specific to the impeachment trial which all senators will have to swear or affirm to: “I solemnly swear (or affirm) that in all things appertaining to the trial of Donald J. Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.”

The framers of the constitution understood the seriousness and importance of an impeachment trial, so they included this oath to ensure senators would respect the gravity of the process, ensuring they would analyze the evidence objectively from a legal and moral perspective. 

Greenfield warned that “McConnell’s loyalty to Trump should not overwhelm his loyalty to the constitution… All senators should take their obligation of faithful impartiality seriously, especially McConnell.”  

Nancy Pelosi, in response to McConnell’s declaration to coordinate the impeachment trial with the White House, has made the decision to withhold the articles of impeachment from the Senate for the time being. Pelosi’s decision is strategic: she wants to ensure there’s a fair and impartial trial in the Senate before handing over control to McConnell. This is her last opportunity to have an effect on how the rules for the impeachment trial will be drafted. If a majority of the Senate votes against Trump and McConnell’s impeachment trial wishlist (no witnesses, no withheld documents), then McConnell will be pressured to hold an actual trial.

Trump and his enablers in Congress and the media have been fervently claiming that Trump has been unfairly targeted by the House impeachment proceedings. They say he hasn’t abused his power (Article I) and has not obstructed Congress (Article II). And yet the hypocrisy is crystal clear: if he was truly an innocent man, wouldn’t they want to present all relevant witnesses and documents to prove his innocence? After all, the Republicans have a majority in the Senate. Why would they possibly want to hold a sham trial when they could hold a legitimate one to show the country their president is innocent of the high crimes and misdemeanors he’s been charged with? The answer is simple: they know he’s guilty.

Congress, as decreed by the constitution, is a co-equal branch of government. They have an obligation to hold the president accountable, regardless of party affiliation. Trump’s congressional defiance is an attempt at not only covering up his crimes against the People, but is also, in effect, a hostile takeover of the federal government. If Congress yields their co-equal power, this is no longer a democratic republic as it has been since its foundation, it will mutate into a monarchy. It won’t be called that, of course, but it will undoubtedly be a government with power being wielded by one man. Congress and the Supreme Court will devolve into little more than non-binding accessories.

This is precisely what Benjamin Franklin forewarned after walking out of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. A citizen, eager to hear what kind of government the delegates had decided on, asked Franklin “Well, Doctor, what have we got –a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin cautiously replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” And we’ll soon find out if we can “keep it.”