Yesterday was another sad day in the history of the Republic. It may go down in history as the saddest. At the end of the second impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump, in which he was again acquitted in a shamelessly partisan process, the now minority leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, gave a twenty minute speech. If you haven’t heard it, you may wish to find it somewhere online, either in video, or transcribed print form.
McConnell blasts Trump for his complicity and guilt, squarely laying the blame for the January 6th, 2020 attack of the Capital at Trump’s feet. To quote him directly,
”They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth — because he was angry he’d lost an election.”
“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their President.
“And their having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated President kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.”
In summary, he goes on to say the attack was the inevitable result of perpetrating those lies and wild conspiracy theories to his base. He says that this isn’t the fault of 74 million Americans who voted for him, but that it is the fault of one man.
At the end he all but invites criminal prosecution of Trump, now a private citizen for his role in the insurrection and attempted coup, saying that former elected officials are not immune from the criminal justice system and,
”Trump didn’t get away with anything…yet.”
Less than an hour before his speech, McConnell had voted along with 42 other GOP senators to find Trump not-guilty of the very same factual charges for which he now excoriated him from the Senate rostrum. He voted not-guilty, he explained, because his reading and interpretation of the Constitution did not align with Impeachment and Conviction of a non-sitting President or other elected public official. He argued that the Constitution simply gave no jurisdictional authority to the Senate to convict the former President, now that Trump is a ”private citizen”.
I admit, McConnell gives a compelling argument for this Constitutional interpretation. He believes the text of the relevant Articles simply did not provide for the remedy sought. He cites former Justice Story, and his views about the narrow usage of Impeachment as an ”inter-governmental” remedy to protect the state from law-breaking office holders, but that impeachment conviction is not an option if the remedy of ”removal” from office is no longer an option. This interpretation could be the correct one.
Of course, McConnell never mentions the fact that he himself had sent the Senate into recess after the House had voted to impeach then-President Trump, making it impossible for the Senate to hold an Impeachment Trial prior to the January 20th Inauguration Day.
The problem with all of this, and with McConnell’s speech, is that the Senate had voted on the Constitutional/Jurisdictional question on Tuesday, at the very beginning of the Impeachment trial. By a narrow vote of 56-44, the Senate voted (and thus declared of itself) that it did, in fact, have jurisdiction. By so voting, the Senate made its Jurisdiction explicitly part of the record of this particular trial, and part of the record of precedent for all future Senates facing similar circumstances.
This 56-44 vote is a part of the Congressional record, and carried the weight of law. It is the resultant basis of this vote that allowed the trial to proceed to the next step, the ”fact-finding” phase of the arguments for and against the specific allegations brought by the Article of Impeachment the House of Representatives had leveled against Donald J. Trump.
Had that Tuesday vote failed, the trial would have ended then and there. But it did not fail. The Senate voted of itself by a bi-partisan majority, including six GOP senators, that it did have Constitutional authority and jurisdiction to try the impeachment case. That issue was settled. It was established.
McConnell’s speech, after the fact, becomes one of the most elaborate, literally contemptible displays of political rhetoric ever foisted upon the body politic in American history. He bases his entire rationale for not voting to convict Trump on the facts, (which was the purpose of yesterday’s vote following the closing arguments by both sides) facts his speech makes all too plain he agrees with, on the basis that the Senate did not have Constitutionally authorized jurisdiction (which had been decided, voted on, and ruled at the very beginning of the proceedings on Tuesday).
In simple terms. His speech is an admission of contempt against the Tuesday vote of the Senate, affirming legal jurisdiction, because McConnell did not agree with it.
This is the exact rationale that Trump and his minions used to concoct the BIG LIE about election fraud in the first place. They just did not agree with majority of Americans, nor with the electoral college, nor with the courts! How McConnell could stand there and blast Trump for his guilt related to January 6th while hiding behind his contempt for the very Senate in which he is the current Minority Leader is astonishing!
I would have respected the GOP senators for walking out of the proceedings on Tuesday after 44 of them voted that they did not have jurisdiction. That would have been consistent with their interpretational views. If they had done so, they would have acted consistently, and maintained their political cover to their constituents back home.
The trial would have proceeded. It would have been presented to the 56 remaining Senators who were faithful to their sworn oaths to be impartial jurors. The conviction would easily have carried a two-thirds majority ”of those present”. In fact, it would have been unanimous.
These 44 cowards, including McConnell, instead put themselves squarely in contempt of the very body to which they are elected members, the United States Senate, by continuing to act as if that body did not have jurisdiction, even though it had voted by a majority affirming that it in fact, did have jurisdiction!
If a citizen in any authorized court in this country acted as if a ruling of that court was invalid once the court itself had established its validity, on the basis that the citizen did not agree with court’s decision, the citizen would immediately be found in contempt of the court! The opinion of a citizen is irrelevant once a court or legal body has ruled.
This ploy and rationalization by the now minority party is nothing but it’s own contemptuous dereliction of duty and illegal contempt of the Senate of the United States.
If a politician or political party can set aside the clear majority vote ruling made by a legal governmental body, in this case the very Senate in which they are elected to ”serve”, simply because they disagree with the result, where do we go from here? In such a case, there is no recourse, the Constitutional Republic is dead.