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Blind to Justice: GOP Senators Vow to Break Oaths to Protect Trump

U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is among several GOP senators who have all but said they will refuse to look at the evidence during Trump's impeachment trial, as Sen. Mitch McConnell, the self-described "grim reaper" of the Senate, says he is not interested in an "impartial" trial and is coordinating with the White House to ensure a speedy acquittal. Composite created using official Hyde-Smith and McConnell portraits; "Lady Blind Justice" by Marc Treble (CC BY 2.0); "Crown" by Finn Pröpper (CC BY 2.0).

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he would be “proud” to immediately violate an oath to “do impartial justice” when Donald Trump’s impeachment trial begins in the Senate. The Kentucky Republican leader, who is in charge of arranging the trial, made the comments on Fox News this morning, calling impartiality a “charade.”

Before the Senate trial, all senators must swear the following oath: “I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of Donald J. Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.”

Numerous Republican senators, though, including U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, have similarly made it clear that they are not interested in what the evidence shows about Trump’s conduct related to charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice.

“This sham will come to a swift end in the U.S. Senate. I will stand up for our president & against this shameful process,” Hyde-Smith tweeted before last week’s impeachment vote.

‘Mind-Meld’: Putin Reportedly Baited Trump With Ukraine Conspiracy

After last week’s vote on two articles of impeachment, Hyde-Smith claimed she had not “heard or read anything regarding the charges against the president the raise to the level of impeachable offenses“—ignoring thousands of pages of documented evidence and more than 100 hours of testimony from numerous witnesses inside the Trump administration who testified about the president’s attempts to use military aid as leverage to get Ukraine’s president to launch a sham investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump also wanted Ukraine to investigate itself, based on Russian-peddled conspiracy theories claiming that Ukraine—not Russia—attacked the U.S. election system.

Over the weekend, the Washington Post reported that multiple White House aides said Trump got the idea that Ukraine was behind the attacks on the 2016 election from Putin himself. All U.S. intelligence agencies, as well as international intelligence agencies, have identified Russia as the culprit—and noted that Russia sought to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Trump win in 2016.

Putin wanted Trump to win in order to sow chaos in 2016 and to destabilize the U.S. political system, hurting the country’s international reputation. By weakening U.S. influence, Putin wagered, the country would not be able to effectively serve as a deterrent against Russian aggression in Eastern European countries like Ukraine in the same capacity as it did previously. Trump repeatedly expressed pro-Russia sentiment during the 2016 election.

Just eight days before that election, Hillary Clinton warned a crowd of supporters about Putin’s ability to manipulate Trump.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign rally in Cincinatti, Ohio on Oct. 31, 2016 came just one day after she warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin could “make Donald the Kremlin’s puppet.”
Photo by Scott Gunn (CC BY 2.0)

“We have never seen a mind-meld of the kind between the Russian leadership and a candidate for president of the United States. … Putin is a trained intelligence officer from the old KGB. He knows he can use flattery to get into Donald’s head, to make Donald the Kremlin’s puppet,” Clinton said on Oct. 30, 2016. “And it seems to be working. Donald has signaled to Putin that he will let Russia do whatever it wants, from Ukraine to Syria and beyond.”

U.S. intelligence officials have warned Trump and GOP senators that the Ukraine conspiracy theory originated as part of a Russian disinformation campaign. Nevertheless, Trump and pro-Trump Republicans like U.S. Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana have repeated the Putin-approved lies.

‘Do Your Duty as an Impartial Juror’

After Hyde-Smith’s recent comments, Mike Espy, her likely 2020 Democratic opponent, criticized her in a press statement last week.

“My question to Sen. Hyde-Smith is: how can you take the juror oath in one breath and violate it in the next? Take off the partisan blinders, senators, and do your duty as an impartial juror. Do not stand in the way of witnesses being called and evidence being heard.”

But U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, has also signaled that he has no plan to be an impartial juror. He has already decided to vote to acquit Trump, he said last weekend.

“I have made up my mind. I’m not trying to be a fair juror here,” said Graham.

During Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998, Graham criticized Democrats who said they would not vote to impeach that Democratic president.

“Members of the Senate have said, ‘…I won’t vote to impeach,’” Graham said in a floor speech back then. “People have made up their mind in a political fashion that will hurt the country long term.”

Donald Trump and John Kennedy
President Donald Trump joined U.S. Sen. John Kennedy at a Louisiana GOP rally in December 2016. Kennedy has repeated Russian-dervied disinformation on Ukraine in his defense of Trump’s actions related to the impeachment probe.
Photo by Tammy Anthony Baker / CC BY 2.0

Recently, McConnell told Fox News that he is working with the president’s lawyers to ensure a speedy trial and quick acquittal.

“Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House counsel,” McConnell told Fox News. “There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this.”

‘A Willfully Blind Eye’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is currently refusing to send articles of impeachment over to the U.S. Senate for a trial to begin until McConnell lays out his plans for the trial. The two leaders have been at odds over McConnell’s suggestions that he may not even allow witnesses to testify at the trial. On Monday, though, McConnell did not rule out the possibility that witnesses may testify.

In a New York Times op-ed on Monday, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, said he understands why Pelosi is holding off on sending impeachment articles to the Senate until the upper chamber lays out its plans for a trial.

“A sham trial is in no one’s interest. A choreographed acquittal exonerates no one, serves only to deepen rifts within the country and eviscerates the Senate’s constitutional role. That is why the advice I shared with my fellow senators last week was to go home for the holidays, take a deep breath, and come back and conduct the trial as the Senate should—and as the Constitution requires,” Leahy wrote.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote a letter to Republicans on Monday morning, warning them against refusing to allow evidence at trial.

“To oppose the admission of this evidence would be to turn a willfully blind eye to the facts, and would clearly be at odds with the obligation of Senators to ‘do impartial justice’ according to the oath we will all take in the impeachment trial,” Schumer wrote.

‘We Do Not Have Kings. We Have Presidents.’

In a floor speech ahead of last week’s impeachment vote, Georgia Democratic Congressman and Civil Rights Veteran John Lewis offered an impassioned plea to his fellow members.

“Our nation is founded on the principle that we do not have kings. We have presidents. And the Constitution is our compass. When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something!” Lewis said. “Our children and their children will ask us, ‘What did you do? What did you say?’”

In support of articles of impeachment, Congressman John Lewis said the U.S. has presidents, “not kings.” Here, in March 2015, the Civil Rights veteran (third from left) held hands with then-President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush, along with then-First Lady Michele Obama and former First Lady Laura Bush.
Official Obama White House photo by Pete Souza.

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