No-trial impeachment ‘trial’
To the editor:
Some Republican Senators urge a no-trial impeachment “trial,” with no witnesses and no documents put into the “trial” record, despite the mandate of Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution, which requires an actual Senate trial after impeachment by the House.
For example, on January 6, 2020, Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted that the Senate trial should be limited to the “same testimony & evidence the House relied upon when they passed the Articles of Impeachment.” The Constitution is clear: The Senate has “the sole Power to try” — not review —“all Impeachments.” The Senate does not serve as an appellate court; it is the trial court. The House impeachment is analogous to a grand jury investigation, with the resulting impeachment vote akin to a decision to indict, followed by a Senate trial.
The Framers of the Constitution certainly understood that a “trial” requires giving each party the opportunity to present witnesses and put documents into the record, as made clear in the Federalist Papers.
To compound the Republican senators’ efforts to make the impeachment trial a sham, several prominent Republican senators have gone on record, conclusively establishing that they cannot, in good conscience, take the required oath as jurors. That oath requires them to solemnly swear that, in all things pertaining to this trial, “I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.”
Here’s a sampling of senators who must recuse themselves or, failing that, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, who is the judge in this trial, should prohibit them from serving as jurors: “There is only one outcome that is suited to the [impeachment] . . . case.” (Mitch McConnell, R-KY). “The president is not going to be removed from office – period.” (James M. Inhofe, R-OK). “The Senate . . . should at once put an end to this charade.” (Rand Paul, R-KY).
If any prospective juror were to make any such statements in a civil or criminal case in any court in this land, evidencing prejudgment before a trial begins, he or she would be prohibited from serving as a juror. The stakes in the impeachment trial are so very high that any lesser standard for removing Senate jurors would be a travesty of justice.
In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton foresaw these very issues, recognizing that “there will always be the greatest danger that the decision [of whether to convict or acquit a president] will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.” We, the people, demand a fair trial, not a show trial with a preordained result.
3 Church St.