The Coming Senate Trial: A Worsening Crisis

A Senate trial is coming. The question is the nature of the trial. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has not made this a secret. He is not a juror willing to listen to the evidence. He already made his mind. In most juries, the Senate is not, that be grounds for disqualification.

He is the foreman, and he intends to coordinate with the defense. You try this in any trial, and you may even face contempt of court. As I said above, the US Senate is not a regular court. However, this is deepening the legitimacy crisis for the senate and the presidency.

What Americans are seeing is the rank partisanship of both parties. However, they are also witnessing how one of the two parties is also willing to ignore major violations of trust. They are also willing to ignore tradition, but that is the least of the problems. The excuses, including the fact that no crime was mentioned in the articles of impeachment, are just that. Abuse of power is a crime. So is obstruction of congress.

Republicans are not interested in the evidence. They are hardly in tune with how these allegations are an attack on the system. So is the constant questioning of the right of the House to exercise this right. The Heritage Foundation, not precisely a left-leaning site, has this to say:

The near-unanimous view of constitutional commentators is that the House of Representatives’ “sole power” of impeachment is a political question and therefore not reviewable by the judiciary. The House is constitutionally obligated to base a bill of impeachment on the standards set out in Article II. (See Article II, Section 4.) However, the fact that the Constitution’s text grants the House the “sole power,” and the fact that such a review is not clearly within the Article III power of the federal judiciary indicate that this responsibility is the House’s alone. The Supreme Court has found that the Senate’s “sole power” to try impeachments is not justiciable. Nixon v. United States (1993).

So the constant attacks on the process are also attacks on the constitutional order. The collusion on the part of Leader McConnell, where he is not even hiding it, is also a direct attack on this order. It will deepen the constitutional crisis, and in fact, also on the system itself. This ran in 2018 in the Washington Post.

This is transparent at this time. The Republican Party (or at least its leadership) does not believe in the system. What is happening right now is a continuation of the attacks that were noted. This, for example, was posted by the Washington Post in January of 2018:

Republican leaders are, in short, abetting a president who has been working overtime to undermine fundamental principles of our democratic system. These same leaders are staging a full-blown assault on the political independence of law enforcement. They are obfuscating one of the most serious attacks on our democracy in recent memory, and they are preventing the country from bolstering our defenses against future risks of the same kind. And yet no one in the GOP is sounding the alarm. Even Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), once praised for his brave criticism of the president, has knuckled under. He recently joined his colleague Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) in calling on the FBI to launch a criminal probe of Christopher Steele, the author of the controversial Trump-Russia “dossier.” When The Post revealed this week that Trump had apparently asked his then-acting FBI director Andrew McCabe in May how he had voted in the election, the chair of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, didn’t even bother refuting the allegation — one that, in an earlier, more innocent age, would have triggered days of anguished controversy. Trump’s meeting with McCabe, she said, was “just a conversation,” just a matter of “trying to get to know somebody.”

There have been many others published in this vein. And I believe this started in the 1990s under the leadership of Speaker Newt Gingrich. We have seen an increase in the attacks on the system, and we also know that Republicans do not believe Democrats have a right to hold to power. Especially when it comes to the executive. Why? Democrats are not scared by diversity. Republicans are.

What about Speaker Nancy Pelosi holding on to the articles until we get a semblance of a trial? Some consider this a mistake. I am torn on this since Republicans would do this in a New York Minute. However, I can see how some of this can be seen as a mistake.

On the other hand, it is a strategic decision made to force at the very least an illusion of a trial. We all know there is not going to be one in any sense of the word. When Republicans called the House process a Stalinist trial (because red-baiting), with a predetermined result, well, the Senate process is exactly that.

And this is why the crisis of Democracy itself is deepening.

Written by

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

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