Mitch McConnell turns the Senate into a crime scene in progress

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US Constitution

“The Enemy of The People,” the “Grim Reaper” of the Senate graveyard where bills and constitutional governance go to die, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, or as Gail Collins says, President Mitch McConnell (“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who actually runs the country, expressed support for his minion, Donald Trump . …”), is ready to start impeachment trial with a partisan power play:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is moving forward on a set of impeachment trial rules without Democratic support.

The Kentucky Republican said Tuesday that he has locked down sufficient backing from his 53-member caucus to pass a blueprint for the trial that leaves the question of seeking witnesses and documents until after opening arguments are made.

That framework would mirror the contours of President Bill Clinton’s trial [in which witnesses were called to testify] and ignore Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s demands for witnesses and new evidence at the outset.

“We have the votes once the impeachment trial has begun to pass a resolution essentially the same — very similar — to the 100 to nothing vote in the Clinton trial,” McConnell told reporters. “All we’re doing here is saying we’re going to get started in exactly the same way that 100 senators agreed to 20 years ago.”

The GOP leader added that the Senate will “get around to the discussion of witnesses,” but not before the Senate trial begins.

Schumer reiterated his pledge to force votes on witnesses and documents and offered his own warning to Senate Republicans Tuesday afternoon: “You can run but you can’t hide.”

“Large numbers of Republicans have refused to say whether they are for witnesses and documents and that’s why Leader McConnell came up with this kick-the-can down the road theory,” Schumer said. “McConnell will never go for it but will four of his Republican colleagues?”

Doubtful, Chuck. You give your Republican colleagues too much credit. They are certain to disappoint you. There is no honor among Republicans. It is all about abuse of power.

The move is the latest exercise of blunt political power by McConnell, who since becoming majority leader has found myriad ways to sideline Democrats and move his agenda with narrow majorities. And the partisan impeachment road isn’t without risk: Republicans are doing little to distance themselves from the president even on process questions, let alone the ultimate decision of whether to remove Trump from office.

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Following McConnell’s announcement, the Senate is in a position to quickly begin the trial — even if it requires steamrolling the 47-member minority. Democrats immediately criticized McConnell for moving forward without them and without making any promise to hear from witnesses.

“That’s not how you run a country. That’s not how you run the United States Senate,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

“That’s regrettable. If I thought McConnell’s offer to bring witnesses… was in good faith, I could probably vote to proceed with impeachment inquiry. I don’t believe that,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “I don’t think he’s going to bring witnesses. I think this is all a whitewash.”

“McConnell needs only a bare majority to ignore Democrats’ demands to subpoena witnesses and documents and instead kick that decision until later in the trial.”

McConnell has infamously said that he’s ‘Going to take my cues from the president’s lawyers’: McConnell to coordinate with White House on impeachment:

“Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with White House counsel,” McConnell told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday. “We’ll be working through this process, hopefully in a short period of time, in total coordination with the White House counsel’s office.”

“I’m going to take my cues from the president’s lawyers,” the Kentucky Republican added.

Just to be clear, McConnell is saying that he is coordinating with defense counsel to allow the defendant to decide which witnesses and what documentary evidence will be presented at trial — remember, Article II of the Articles of Impeachment are for obstruction of Congress, the Trump administration prevented witnesses from testifying and refused congressional subpoenas for documents — McConnell is a coconspirator or accessory actively aiding and abetting this obstruction of Congress.

McConnell is openly rigging the Senate trial to put on a sham trial without testimony from material fact witnesses who refused to testify in the House impeachment proceeding — White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former national security adviser John Bolton and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) official Michael Duffey — or compelling the production of documentary evidence that the White House refused to produce to the House impeachment proceeding. Jury rigging is obstruction of justice.

This is not a search for the truth, but rather a whitewash with the verdict already predetermined not by the evidence but by GOP tribalism which will excuse even the most heinous criminal misconduct just as long as it is done by a Republican. Senate Republicans close their eyes to presidential abuse:

New evidence continues to emerge, yet Republican senators, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), seem no more interested in conducting a serious inquiry into President Trump’s corrupt Ukraine pressure campaign.

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Unlike in 1998, during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, Congress lacks a voluminous report from Justice Department investigators; lawmakers have had to assemble their own record. Also unlike in 1998, the White House has refused to cooperate in any way with the inquiry. The Senate should have the self-respect to ask for needed information and take the president to court if he refuses to turn it over.

Amber Phillips explains, “This battle over how to conduct President Trump’s impeachment trial is going into its third week. Here’s how to argue about it like the politicians, with the facts.” How to argue about whether a Senate trial should have witnesses:

If you think the Senate should hear from Trump’s top aides on Ukraine during the trial, point out that:

      • The Clinton impeachment trial featured witnesses.
      • It featured witnesses, even though senators already knew what these witnesses were likely to say because they had been interviewed under oath as part of a two-year special investigation. By contrast, Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton has indicated he has more to share about Trump and Ukraine than what the House impeachment investigation uncovered.
      • The reason the House didn’t get to talk to Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and two White House aides key to holding up military assistance to Ukraine was because Trump prohibited them from talking. Some of these people even ignored congressional subpoenas. “They are in possession of information that’s directly relevant to the allegations in the articles of impeachment,” a memo from Senate Democrats says.
      • And newly released White House emails further tied Trump’s freeze on Ukraine military assistance to his requests that Ukraine announce investigations into Democrats. The emails came from some of the very White House aides who might be trial witnesses.
      • Hearing from witnesses is the one thing about impeachment on which Americans can agree. A majority of Americans (71 percent), including nearly 64 percent of Republicans, think Trump should allow his top aides to testify, according to a December Washington Post-ABC News poll.

And as Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig pointedly argues, Don’t allow McConnell to swear a false oath:

Before the Senate begins its trial to determine whether the president should be convicted of the charges for which he has been impeached, the jury — the members of the Senate — must be sworn to service. The oath is mandated by the Constitution; its language, set by Senate rules, requires each senator to swear to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.”

To swear a false oath is perjury — the crime President Bill Clinton was charged with in his impeachment. Yet given the Constitution’s speech or debate clause, a senator likely could not be charged with perjury for swearing falsely on the Senate floor. Instead, it is the Senate itself that must police members’ oaths — as it has in the past. Beginning in 1864, and continuing for 20 years, members had to swear an oath affirming their commitment to the Union. Often when it was clear that a member could not swear that oath honestly, he was not permitted to take it. As Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner said, “A false oath, taken with our knowledge, would compromise the Senate. We who consent will become parties to the falsehood.”

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Among the senators who will have to take an oath in the trial of President Trump is the majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Yet McConnell has openly declared that he is “not impartial about this at all.” “Impeachment,” the senator has opined, is a “political process. This [sic] is not anything judicial about it.”

But however one characterizes the process of impeachment, an oath is an oath. Even a majority leader — like a president — is not privileged to swear an oath falsely. And whereas most politicians are careful to avoid language that expressly declares the opposite of their pledge, McConnell has openly flouted the Constitution’s clear command to “do impartial justice.” If others follow, it would corrupt the Senate’s role in fairly adjudicating the charges.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) has called on McConnell to recuse himself. But the issue is far more serious. The real question is for the chief justice, who presides over the president’s trial: Can he accept an oath that he knows is false? Can he seat a juror who he knows has pledged not to be impartial?

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[A]ny senator is privileged to object to any other senator taking an oath. The chief justice would then have to decide whether the oath can be sworn honestly. As there seems no way that McConnell’s oath could be honest, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. should forbid McConnell from taking it. Whether he so rules or not, the decision could be appealed to the Senate as a whole. Should the Senate openly accept a false oath — perjury — in a proceeding to determine the president’s guilt?

This would not be an easy question for many Republican senators. The strong distinction that they all have drawn between Trump’s case and Clinton’s is perjury: Clinton swore a false oath, and thus had to be impeached. But then how can those same senators accept the perjurious oath of another senator? Is the president forbidden from lying under oath but McConnell not?

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A nation governed by the rule of law cannot accept a plain flouting of the law. Given his words, McConnell cannot honestly be sworn to serve on the president’s jury. Any senator who allows it becomes, in Sumner’s words, a party to that falsehood.

Yet this is where we are today. As I keep emphasizing, it is not just Donald Trump who is on trial but congressional Republicans. House Republicans have already failed their duty to the Constitution, voting unanimously to defend Trump out of GOP tribalism. Senate Republicans are poised to do the same. It is a betrayal of their oath to defend the Constitution and the rule of law.

As I have said before, the Party of Trump is a criminal enterprise led by a third-rate mafia “Don” Trump. They are all accomplices, coconspirators and accessories who aid and abet his criminality and corruption. There is not a patriot among them. They put fealty to their “Dear Leader” above all else, including loyalty to their country and our national security, and their oaths of office to defend the Constitution. They reject the rule of law and are amoral. It is a betrayal of the faith of the American people in our constitutional government. They must all be held accountable.