“I solemnly swear (or affirm) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of (the person being impeached), now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.” Rule XXV, Senate Rules in Impeachment Trials
U.S. senators will swear the above oath when the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump begins. Article I, section 3, clause 6 of the Constitution says that senators sitting on a trial of impeachment “shall be on Oath or Affirmation.”
What do Republican senators think about this oath? On Dec. 14, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said this about the upcoming trial: “I will do everything I can to make it die quickly. I have made up my mind. I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.”
On Dec. 15, Graham repeated this on Face the Nation: “I am clearly made up my mind (sic).” So Graham plans to violate his oath before he even takes it, “So help me God” notwithstanding.
What about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.? McConnell told Fox News host Sean Hannity, “Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this.”
One government professor said McConnell will be “in literal violation of the oath” he takes before he takes it (Newsweek, Dec. 15). This is like a jury foreman coordinating with the defense team in a plan to acquit the defendant before the trial even begins, the perfect example of a sham trial.
Republicans claim Democrats wanted to impeach Trump from the day he was inaugurated. Since Trump began violating the constitutional emoluments clause at the moment he took his oath of office, this might be true.
How about Republicans? Before the 2016 election, Republicans including Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., had plans to impeach Hillary Clinton if she won. The Aug. 23, 2016, issue of the conservative magazine National Review also called for Clinton’s impeachment before the election. Hypocrisy, anyone?
Republicans also claim Democrats manipulated the House impeachment hearings. In reality, Democrats followed the rules written by Republicans years ago. They called fact-witnesses and held open hearings. They invited Trump and his lawyers to participate in the hearings.
Democrats were blocked constantly by Trump’s White House, which refused to release legally subpoenaed documents or let primary witnesses appear. Republicans claimed they wanted firsthand evidence but then supported Trump’s obstruction of justice. Apparently, their hypocrisy is so ingrained they don’t understand their own actions.
One excuse Republicans give for this obstruction is their claim that Democrats are trying to overthrow the will of the nearly 63 million Americans who voted for Trump. What about the nearly 66 million who voted for Hillary Clinton? If the will of the people is the standard, Clinton is clearly the winner. Trump won the Electoral College, but he wasn’t America’s choice. The majority of Americans support Trump’s removal from office; Republicans have no problem thwarting their will.
Have Republicans always felt this way about impeachment? No. During the 1998-99 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, then-Rep. Lindsay Graham said, “All I ask for is a chance to do it meaningful; if you have one day and you’re stuck with a judiciary report, I don’t think history will judge the Senate well. If they decide to acquit the president, there needs to be a record well developed where both sides had a chance to prove their case. So I hope we have a trial that is meaningful, that will withstand historical scrutiny, that will follow the precedents of the past. I’ve never known an impeachment trial without a witness and just lasting one day to present the case for the House. That’s frankly not fair.”
Now Republican senators are saying they’ll vote for acquittal before the Senate trial even begins. They’ve reached a verdict without hearing the evidence or questioning witnesses. They’re telling Trump, we will defy our oaths to ensure you get away with your violations of the Constitution.
McConnell claims Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is afraid to start the Senate trial because the House case is weak. The case is strong. What’s weak is Republican backbone and integrity. If they decide to acquit Trump before the trial begins, their actions will demonstrate that American democracy is a fraud and the Constitution is meaningless. That would be tragic for everyone.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.