As Congress’s return from their holiday break looms, so does the Senate impeachment trial that has the stage set for it by the House’s recent impeachment of President Donald Trump. Democrats have been deeply concerned by assertions like Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s insistence that he will not be an “impartial juror” and advocacy against basic steps like calling witnesses, but this weekend on CNN, Trump ally Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) tried to completely punt all of those concerns. His solution to the disagreements over fairness was not a real solution; he resorted to insisting that there are no rules or standards for a Senate trial at all.
He kept the air of both sides-ism up through his remarks, but following his commentary to its logical end opens the door for McConnell, in his authority as Majority Leader, to conduct the impeachment trial essentially however he wants. What Republican has shown the courage to actually vote against any of McConnell’s plans? Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski said she found McConnell’s pledge to coordinate with the president for the trial “disturbing,” but a vote testing those convictions has not happened yet.
‘I think Senator McConnell is entitled to his opinion and his approach. So is Senator Murkowski, so is Senator Schumer, so is Senator Blumenthal. If you look at the Constitution, the standing rules of the Senate, the essays and analyses by the Congressional Research Service, if you look at the case law… what you’ll see is when it comes to impeachment the rule is there are virtually no substantive rules. It’s not a criminal trial. The Senate is not really a jury… There are no standards of proof. There are no rules of evidence.’
Sen. John Kennedy responds to GOP Sen. Murkowski's comments that she is "disturbed" by McConnell's coordination with the White House: "I think Senator McConnell is entitled to his opinion and his approach. So is Senator Murkowski" #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/0rLxyDN61p
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) December 29, 2019
So his solution is apparently to just throw the whole idea of fairness out, which would benefit the president. As more testimony has accumulated, he’s only been further implicated in the impeachment-driving plot to exchange military aid and a summit in D.C. for dirt on his domestic political opponents from Ukraine.
Kennedy went on to say that he wants to “keep an open mind” and “be fair to both sides,” but his idea of fairness clearly does not entail the kind of straightforward, public proceedings conducted by the House, because he also complained about their hearings. Kennedy said that when a looming Senate trial is complete, he doesn’t want the American people to feel like they’ve been “run over by the same truck twice.” In other words: Republicans have now compared the impeachment to Jesus’ trial (which ended with him apparently crucified), the World War II-era Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that claimed the lives of thousands of Americans, and getting run over by a truck — and the list goes on.
At this point, it’s not even clear when a trial might happen. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has delayed transmitting the impeachment case to the Senate while debate rages over fairness. Republicans have claimed the delay is evidence of a weak case, but Pelosi has made her intent to advocate for fairness abundantly clear.