Justice is blind, but not deaf and dumb
With a 53-47 majority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans had the power to make the rules of the trial that would decide if President Trump’s conduct warranted removal from office. Instead of designing a trial to fairly and impartially consider the facts, they made one that circumvented judicial precedents and excluded relevant information in order to ensure rapid acquittal, regardless of the evidence.
From the start, Majority Leader McConnell made it clear that he intended to protect the president. He released campaign ads pledging to do so, promised “total coordination” with the White House, and told reporters, “I’m not impartial about this at all” (cnn.com).
McConnell’s trial did not guarantee witness testimony or even the official consideration of all the evidence produced by the House impeachment investigation. Instead, after the conclusion of questioning, a majority vote by senators first decided whether to consider additional evidence (no), and then decided whether to admit witnesses (no). In each instance, the Republican majority voted down considering applicable information and witness testimony.
Although polls indicated that 66% of Americans supported the inclusion of witnesses (abcnews), Republicans refused. Former National Security Advisor John Bolton and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney were both prevented from testifying despite having relevant inside information as a result of their roles working directly with the president.
This “see-no-evil” approach allowed senators to avoid publicly considering potentially damaging evidence and testimony. They claimed that there was not enough evidence to convict the president, while simultaneously refusing to hear additional evidence. Preventing this information from reaching the senate floor also kept it out of the eye of the news media and the American people.
If Republicans believed the president’s offenses did not warrant removal from office, why didn’t they want evidence and testimony included in the trial? Why would an objective jury concerned with transparency, truth, and justice not consider all pertinent information?
Acting as a check on executive power is a fundamental responsibility vested in Congress. When a president is impeached by the House, the Senate’s responsibility is to serve as a jury and carefully consider whether the offenses necessitate removal from office. Before the trial, senators took an oath to administer “impartial justice.” But as McConnell publicly stated, they were not impartial. Constitutional checks and balances between the legislative and executive branches fail when the majority of Congress takes orders from the president.
Americans deserved a fair trial, free from partisan allegiances. Instead, Senate Republicans chose party over country and gave us this partisan hoax. This behavior sets a dangerous precedent by affording the president almost complete freedom from oversight and accountability. It also fuels the growing tribalism that mars American politics, where the truth, the Constitution, America’s well-being, and even “right” and “wrong” take a back seat to party allegiance.
The Republican Senate majority failed to conduct a fair trial, failed to keep its oath to serve as an impartial jury, failed to fulfill its duty as a check on executive power, failed to uphold the Constitution, failed to deliver justice, and failed the American people. These senators earned a short-term political victory for their party and an eternal badge of shame and cowardice for perpetrating and enabling this perversion of our Constitution and our democracy.
Nick Wilson is a junior at Boston College and is studying environmental sciences.