For the second time in the last seven days, a Republican Senator has gone public on the eve of a holiday with their intention to force witnesses to be called at President Trump’s impending impeachment trial.
First, Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski spoke out about being disturbed by the Senate Majority leader’s promises of an unfair trial. Now, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is calling for a fair and impartial impeachment trial as demanded by the constitution, including “being open” to calling witnesses after Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made very public statements that he plans to act in “total coordination” with the White House.
But the U.S. constitution requires all senators to take an oath of impartiality before beginning a trial.
The Senate’s partisan balance is 53 Republicans to 47 Democrats, but due to the unusual rules of impeachment trials, it would only take three or four defections on most issues in order to call witnesses, which would all come from the highest ranks of the Trump Administration. Senator Collins told Maine Public Radio:
“I am open to witnesses. I think it’s premature to decide who should be called until we see the evidence that is presented and get the answers to the questions that we senators can submit through the chief justice to both sides.”
“It is inappropriate,” Sen. Collins continued. “In my judgment, for senators on either side of the aisle to prejudge the evidence before they have heard what is presented to us. Because each of us will take an oath, an oath that I take very seriously to render impartial justice.
As the Maine senator noted in her comments to Main Public Radio, the last time a presidential impeachment trial took place, her chamber adopted fair rules by a 100-0 vote. This December, McConnell decided to hold out entirely from discussing the rules of the trial with Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), preferring instead to make incendiary public statements.
The House of Representatives impeached President Donald J. Trump two weeks ago.
However, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has refused to say when she will send the articles of impeachment to the Senate to initiate its mandatory duty of promptly holding a trial because she hasn’t received assurances that witnesses who unlawfully refused to testify earlier will be compelled to appear at the ensuing proceeding. It’s an idea first proposed by Harvard law professor and constitutional scholar Lawrence Tribe.
That decision has sent President Trump into a prolonged twitter rage over the holidays, with deranged, angry tweets emanating at all hours of the day and night.
Republicans have begun to argue that withholding the articles of impeachment is somehow illegal or wrong, but even a Fox News panel admitted that Pelosi has the power to do whatever she chooses to determine the start time of the trial of President Donald J. Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Ironically, Speaker Pelosi planned to withhold the articles of impeachment no matter what, due to bipartisan agreement that it would be best to put President Trump on trial for crimes of office after the end of the holiday season and pre-planned Senate recess.
Since then, a pair of stories emerged pointing to the utmost importance of the Senate issuing subpoenas for new testimony at the trial including the revelation of newly discovered emails about the withholding of aid in exchange for political benefits to the President.
One of them is an email showing that a top White House official told the Pentagon to withhold Ukrainian security aid, and keep it quiet, just 91 minutes after the fateful phone call that set off the entire chain of events. Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and former National Security Advisor John Bolton all met with President Trump in August to urge him to stop illegally withholding funds from Ukraine, before the hold became public.
Lastly, the House told a federal court judge that it’s possible Trump could face another bill of impeachment over his numerous attempts to obstruct justice during the Mueller probe raising the specter of concurrent trials.
Today’s news that a second GOP senator is prepared to defect from the Senate Majority leader’s dastardly plan to hold a rigged trial is a welcome step towards restoring the checks and balances set out in our constitution.
A third and fourth Republican senator must be convinced as soon as possible to overthrow the dark design of Mitch McConnell’s vow of discrimination against the case to be laid out by House Democrats during Donald J. Trump’s rapidly approaching impeachment trial.
Grant Stern is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition