Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been running neck-and-neck with Donald Trump down the path of destroying America. Trump’s wrecking ball has been smashing the country’s institutions and the fourth estate aka the media. On the other hand, the Kentucky senator has quietly been dismantling the Senate: the only work they do is install less-than-savory conservative judges.
The self-described “Grim Reaper” has stood at the Senate door killing the nearly 400 bills, many of them partisan, that the House has sent to him. What he may not have realized was that he has been standing on thin ice. This Kentucky newspaper op-ed may wake up McConnell.
The Courier-Journal printed the opinion piece by a “sixth-generation Kentuckian, professor of law, and Dean’s Distinguished Scholar at Boston College” Kent Greenfield, He wrote:
‘WE KENTUCKIANS KNOW THAT OUR WORD IS OUR BOND. OATHS ARE THE MOST SOLEMN OF PROMISES, AND THEIR BREACH RESULTS IN SERIOUS REPUTATIONAL — AND SOMETIMES LEGAL — CONSEQUENCES. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP WILL SOON BE ON TRIAL IN THE SENATE ON GROUNDS THAT HE BREACHED ONE OATH. SENATE LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL IS ABOUT TO BREACH TWO.’
In its primary body, the Constitution speaks about an oath just three times. The first is the president’s oath:
‘THE CONSTITUTION MENTIONS AN OATH ONLY THREE TIMES IN ITS MAIN BODY. THE MOST FAMOUS IS THE OATH THE PRESIDENT SWEARS UPON TAKING OFFICE, SET OUT WORD FOR WORD IN ARTICLE II. THAT ARTICLE IS OTHERWISE QUITE VAGUE AND ABSTRACT IN DESCRIBING THE PRESIDENT’S POWERS AND OBLIGATIONS. CONSTITUTIONAL SCHOLARS HAVE DEBATED FOR 200 YEARS WHAT THE “EXECUTIVE POWER” MEANS, FOR EXAMPLE.’
Chief Justice John Roberts screwed up President Barack Obama’s oath of office:
‘BUT THE FRAMERS OF THE CONSTITUTION THOUGHT THE SPECIFIC WORDS OF THE OATH MATTERED, AND EVERY PRESIDENT HAS SWORN TO “FAITHFULLY EXECUTE THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT … AND … PRESERVE, PROTECT AND DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION.” (WHEN CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS FLUBBED THE WORDS IN PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’S FIRST INAUGURATION IN 2008, THEY PERFORMED A DO-OVER THE NEXT DAY.)
‘THE CORE OF THIS PRESIDENTIAL OATH IS FAITHFULNESS. THIS PROMISE MIRRORS THE RESPONSIBILITY MENTIONED LATER IN ARTICLE II THAT THE PRESIDENT “SHALL TAKE CARE THAT THE LAWS BE FAITHFULLY EXECUTED.” THESE ARE THE ONLY TWO TIMES IN THE CONSTITUTION THAT FAITHFULNESS IS MENTIONED. IT IS THE CENTRAL PRESIDENTIAL OBLIGATION. THE OPPOSITE OF FAITHFULNESS? CORRUPTION AND ABUSE OF POWER. AND THOSE CONSTITUTIONAL SINS, OF COURSE, ARE EXACTLY THE BASIS OF THE HOUSE’S VOTE TO IMPEACH PRESIDENT TRUMP AND WILL BE THE FOCUS OF THE SENATE’S TRIAL.’
Then, there was the second oath mention in Article VI, written for all “state and federal officers:”
‘A SECOND OATH IN THE CONSTITUTION IS IN ARTICLE VI, WHICH REQUIRES ALL STATE AND FEDERAL OFFICERS TO SWEAR AN “OATH … TO SUPPORT THIS CONSTITUTION.” THIS WAS A BIG DEAL TO THE FRAMERS. THE CONSTITUTION WAS THE “SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND” AND EVEN STATE OFFICIALS WERE HENCEFORTH “BOUND BY OATH” TO IT. LIKE ALL U.S. SENATORS, CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVES, STATE GOVERNORS AND JUDGES, AND OTHER OFFICIALS, SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL TOOK THIS OATH WHEN HE TOOK OFFICE. ‘
The third mention of “oath” gave the Senate the ‘”sole” power to “try all impeachments:”
‘THE THIRD OATH IS THE RAREST. IN ARTICLE I, THE CONSTITUTION GIVES THE SENATE THE “SOLE” POWER TO “TRY ALL IMPEACHMENTS,” AND THE CONSTITUTION REQUIRES THAT “WHEN SITTING FOR THAT PURPOSE, THEY SHALL BE ON OATH OR AFFIRMATION.” THIS SPECIAL OATH ONLY KICKS IN WHEN THE SENATE TRIES AN IMPEACHMENT, AND THIS WILL BE ONLY THE THIRD TIME WHEN A PRESIDENT HAS BEEN SO TRIED. THE FRAMERS WANTED TO MAKE SURE THE SENATE WOULD NEVER TAKE SUCH A TRIAL LIGHTLY — THIS OATH REQUIREMENT IS OVER AND ABOVE THE OATH EACH SENATOR HAS ALREADY TAKEN TO SUPPORT THE CONSTITUTION.’
While not in the Constitution, Senate rules to contain a Senate oath:
‘THE CONSTITUTION DOES NOT SET OUT THE TEXT OF THE TRIAL OATH, BUT THE SENATE RULES DO. SENATORS WILL ‘‘SOLEMNLY SWEAR … THAT IN ALL THINGS APPERTAINING TO THE TRIAL OF THE IMPEACHMENT OF DONALD J. TRUMP, NOW PENDING, I WILL DO IMPARTIAL JUSTICE ACCORDING TO THE CONSTITUTION AND LAWS: SO HELP ME GOD.’’
Greenfield wrote about this impeachment trial oath:
‘THE PRESIDENTIAL OATH AND THE SENATORIAL OATH TO BE TAKEN BEFORE AN IMPEACHMENT TRIAL ARE KIN. THE PRESIDENT MUST ACT FAITHFULLY AND WITHOUT CORRUPTION. IN THOSE (PRESUMABLY) RARE SITUATIONS IN WHICH THE PRESIDENT HAS FAILED TO BE FAITHFUL, THE SENATE IS REQUIRED TO BE FAITHFUL IN ITS ADJUDICATION OF THE CASE AGAINST HIM.’
Then, the professor of law connected McConnell to the current trial:
‘BUT WE HAVE ALREADY SEEN INDICATIONS THAT MCCONNELL HAS NO INTENTION OF DOING IMPARTIAL JUSTICE. HE HAS SAID THAT HE DOES NOT CONSIDER HIMSELF AN “IMPARTIAL JUROR.” HE IS COORDINATING STRATEGY WITH THE WHITE HOUSE. HE HAS ALREADY CALLED THE CASE AGAINST THE PRESIDENT “THIN” AND “INCOHERENT.”
‘EVERY SENATOR HAS A CONSTITUTIONAL OBLIGATION OF IMPARTIALITY. BUT MCCONNELL’S ROLE AS SENATE LEADER MAKES HIS OBLIGATION EVEN MORE IMPORTANT AND CRUCIAL TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK. THIS IS NOT A TIME FOR POLITICAL CYNICISM OR CONSTITUTIONAL FAITHLESSNESS. MCCONNELL’S LOYALTY TO TRUMP SHOULD NOT OVERWHELM HIS LOYALTY TO THE CONSTITUTION. IF HE FAILS IN THIS, HE IS NOT ONLY VIOLATING HIS ARTICLE I OATH BUT HIS ARTICLE VI OATH.
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