On Thursday, as the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump were being debated by the House Judiciary Committee, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) met privately with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone to discuss rigging Trump’s Senate trial to guarantee acquittal. As has become routine in the Trump era, this brazenly corrupt act was not meant to be kept secret. A few hours later, McConnell was on Fox News boasting about it to Sean Hannity, the right-wing outlet’s most strident propagandist.
McConnell told Hannity he would remain in “total coordination” with Trump during the trial. “There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this,” McConnell said. “There’s no chance the president will be removed from office.”
This was a naked act of corruption at the highest level of the government. McConnell, who rules the Senate with an iron fist, will sit as one of 100 jurors in Trump’s impeachment trial. Like the rest, he will take an oath before the trial begins, stating, “I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of Donald J. Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.”
McConnell has made a mockery of that oath, which is par for the course among Republicans these days. On the other hand, by fixing the outcome of the trial before it starts, the supposedly wily old pol has inadvertently assured that Trump cannot be vindicated by an acquittal, according to constitutional expert Laurence Tribe.
LAURENCE TRIBE: What it looks like is that the majority leader is going to conduct this trial as though he’s a member of the defense team. You know, it’s an ancient principle, centuries-old — actually over a millennium old — that you can’t be a judge on your own case and effectively, to allow Donald Trump to call the shots, violates that principle.
The reason it may backfire is that an exoneration — if that’s what emerges by a Senate that is essentially rigged and fixed so that it’s coordinated in this way with the defense really doesn’t clear the name of the accused so that the president will go down in history as having been essentially found guilty by the House in a proceeding where he had a chance to defend himself, but didn’t take advantage of it and then in a kind of rubber stamp sort of toss off, not really given a meaningful trial so that he will have been adjudicated fundamentally by the House of Representatives to have abused his office, abused his oath, and endangered the national security and then blockaded in the inquiry as though he were a dictator.
Tribe has taught at Harvard for 50 years and has argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court.