Tuesday, May 28, 2019


Mitch "Law Unto Himself" McConnell is apparently worried enough about a possible impeachment of President Trump that he's spreading word of his plans to choke off the process once it reaches his personal fiefdom. The Hill reports:
GOP senators say that if the House passes articles of impeachment against President Trump they will quickly quash them in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has broad authority to set the parameters of a trial.

While McConnell is required to act on articles of impeachment, which require 67 votes — or a two-thirds majority — to convict the president, he and his Republican colleagues have the power to set the rules and ensure the briefest of trials.

“I think it would be disposed of very quickly,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
The story says that "McConnell is required to act on articles of impeachment," but I'm surprised that he and his henchmen aren't questioning the need to hold a trial at all if the House impeaches. The wording of Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution is:
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.
It doesn't expressly say that the Senate must try anyone who's impeached by the House. I could imagine McConnell proclaiming that the Senate has the right to review the House's case and simply dismiss it -- Merrick Garlanding impeachment, you could call it.

But I think McConnell wants to have a process just so it can be a humiliation for Democrats. I'm imagining the entire trial being something like this procedural vote during the debate over Alabama's new abortion law:

The Senate trial starts, ten minutes later it's over. Justice is served! Trump wins!

Okay, maybe it wouldn't be quite that bad. The good news is that, as the Constitution mandates, the presiding officer won't be a member of the Senate majority. The bad news is that it will be Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts.

Even if Roberts tries to make the process appear fair, he can be overruled by a simple majority of the rubber-stamp Senate:
Under the Senate manual’s rules for impeachment trials, the presiding officer — likely Roberts — would rule on all questions of evidence, but any senator could ask for a formal vote to appeal a decision. Under the Senate rules, it takes a majority to sustain or overrule a ruling from the presiding officer.

Democrats would need to persuade at least four Republicans to break with McConnell in order to bring in any witnesses or exhibits he decides to block.

That would mean winning over moderates like Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) or vulnerable senators in swing states, namely Sens. Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Martha McSally (Ariz.).
By all rights, Susan Collins should be listed as one of those vulnerable senators, although she seems to be covered in multiple coats of Teflon. Hell, Mitch McConnell, who has the highest disapproval rating of any senator in his or her home state, and who's up for reelection in 2020, ought to be at least slightly vulnerable, although he's from Kentucky, which will almost certainly reelect him.

But that's the point. Many Democrats don't want to impeach because they believe, correctly, that they can't possibly get a conviction in the Senate. But they can highlight the heavy-handed behavior of Mitch McConnell and the rest of his crew of lackeys, among whom are potentially vulnerable incumbents who'll have to run in a presidential election year in which the majority of Americans won't want the incumbent Republican president reelected. So maybe it would be good for Democrats if the American public gets to watch McConnell & Co. run an outrageous kangaroo-court proceeding.

This assumes, of course, that Democrats can frame the issue correctly -- they have to make the case that the charges against Trump require serious consideration, and that a procedure that's a mockery of justice is an outrage. I'm not sure Democrats have the messaging skills to pull that off. But if they can do it -- if they can highlight McConnell's efforts to quash evidence and prevent witnesses from testifying, all while zipping through the process and, probably, conducting it in the middle of the night or over a holiday weekend -- then maybe they can run on that injustice as much as on Trump's unfitness for office in 2020.

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