Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s interview last Thursday in the friendly confines of the Sean Hannity Show offered a definitive preview of what we can expect in the in-all-probability imminent trial of President Donald Trump on articles of impeachment making their way through the U.S. House now–and surprising nobody except for with his frankness, as USA TODAY reports, there will not even be any pretense of impartiality in this proceeding:
Democratic lawmakers slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s intention to be in “total coordination” with the White House on impeachment strategy as Congress prepares for a historic vote to impeach President Donald Trump next week.
In a Thursday evening interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, described his planning with the White House.
“We’ll be working through this process, hopefully in a fairly short period of time in total coordination with the White House counsel’s office and the people who are representing the president as well as the Senate,” McConnell said. [Pols emphasis]
Speaking in Qatar this past weekend, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina went even further, saying flat-out that no trial is even needed:
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Saturday that he’s made up his mind that President Trump should be acquitted, dismissed the notion that he has to be a “fair juror” and said he doesn’t see the need for a formal trial in the Senate.
Under the rules of the Senate governing impeachment as specified in 1868 for the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, Senators are required to recite an oath before the beginning of the trial to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.” In the case of Richard Nixon faced with impeachment in 1974, it was the intervention of his fellow Republicans to make it clear Nixon’s position was no longer tenable that left him with no choice but to resign. Based on everything we’re seeing only two days before the House likely passes articles of impeachment, there will be no moment of conscience for Republicans this time around.
Politically, short-circuiting the Senate impeachment trial will have varied effects on responsible Senators based on the politics of the state they represent. Lindsey Graham represents a state that may tolerate a wholesale disregard of such a solemn responsibility, but the vulnerable incumbent Republicans who will also be sworn in to “do impartial justice”–Martha McSally in Arizona, Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Susan Collins in Maine, and especially Cory Gardner in Trump-hostile Colorado–could do real harm to themselves depending on how they proceed. That’s why Rep. Ken Buck is lauding Gardner for holding on to the pretense of impartiality while assuring the GOP base on talk radio that Gardner is in lockstep, or if you will, “total coordination” with Trump.
For Cory Gardner, representing a state that has soured dramatically on the Republican brand since his own and then Trump’s election, the all-but-decided outcome of the Senate impeachment trial is arguably not what matters most. The voters of Colorado are watching to see what Gardner does, no less than the President himself–and that means Cory Gardner is also on trial.