A crooked senator who admits to coordinating with an impeached president and his cabal of defenders to undermine the work of the Senate has acknowledged his engagement in wrongdoing of the highest order: conniving to upend the system of checks and balances he has sworn to maintain.
This is not a close call, Americans of every partisanship, and every ideological bent (aside, perhaps, from the monarchists), should recognize that Senator majority leader Mitch McConnell’s words were not just unacceptable but disqualifying.
Or, as Representative Val Demings explained in December, “Senator McConnell has promised to sabotage the impeachment trial and he must recuse himself.”
Demings, a member of the key House panels with regard to impeachment—the Intelligence and Judiciary panels—has now been named as one of seven House managers for the impeachment trial. To her credit, she refuses to back off on recusal. Asked this week about whether she still believes McConnell must step aside, the Florida representative said, “I certainly do.”
This comment from Demings on the heels of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s declaration as she was preparing to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate: “Every Senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the President or the Constitution.”
Unfortunately, there is good reason to believe that most members of the Republican majority in the chamber will err on the side of partisanship rather than the rule of law. That is shameful, if perhaps not remarkable at a point when Donald Trump has made the Republican Party his partisan plaything.
What is remarkable about this impeachment process as it moves to the Senate is the fact that the dominant figure in the chamber, majority leader Mitch McConnell, announced his choice before the trial began. Indeed, the Republican senator from Kentucky has signaled that he will conspire with the White House to avert accountability. McConnell told Fox News prior to the House’s December approval of two articles of impeachment against Trump, “We have no choice but to take it up, but we’ll be working through this process, hopefully in a fairly short period of time, in total coordination with White House counsel’s office and the people who are representing the President in the well of the Senate.”
That was a stunning statement, even by the standards of a Senate that McConnell’s disregard for ethical standards has turned into a political punch line. It drew rebukes from Democrats and from Republicans such as Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who said she was “disturbed” by the majority leader’s announcement of a coordination scheme. “To me,” Murkowski said in December, “it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense, and so when I heard what leader McConnell had said, I happened to think that that has further confused the process.”
“Confused” is a euphemism.
The proper phrase is “further corrupted the process.”
McConnell has literally announced that “I’m not an impartial juror.”
The necessary response to McConnell’s pronouncements came from Representative Val Demings, who stated after McConnell made his comment about coordination, “No court in the country would allow a member of the jury to also serve as the accused’s defense attorney. The moment Senator McConnell takes the oath of impartiality required by the Constitution, he will be in violation of that oath.”
Demings, a former police chief, was on point. The Constitution identifies the Senate as the chamber with the “sole Power to try all Impeachments” and stipulates that “when sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation.” The oath is clear in its language and intent:
I solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of [Donald Trump , now pending], I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.
“As I said before,” Demings explained, “the senators and we have been given a tremendous responsibility, as well as the president. For the Senate Majority Leader to publicly announce that he has no intentions on being impartial and, as a matter of fact, he’s coordinating every step with the White House and there will be no difference between the White House and his views, is absolutely shameful. It’s hard to take that one back and put that toothpaste back in the tube.”
Now, some Republicans are griping that Demings has been too rough on McConnell.
When a wholly amoral officer of the Senate is publicly announcing that he will manipulate the procedures and processes of his chamber, as his colleagues undertake one of their most solemn duties, it would be even more wholly amoral for impeachment managers, senators, and the American people to look away. The call for Mitch McConnell to recuse himself must be amplified and extended. It should become a central theme in the permanent record of this awful moment in American history when oaths they swore have been openly disregarded by the unscrupulous servants of an imperial president.