"Everything I do during this [trial preparation], I'm coordinating with White House counsel ... There will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this "... I'm going to take my cues from the president's lawyers."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaking with Sean Hannity on Fox Broadcasting, December 12, 2019.
That's a stark and unequivocal statement of intent by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He's on record saying he has no intention of facilitating anything resembling a fair trial of the impeachment charges against Donald Trump. What role does that leave Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts cast in?
The Constitution provides that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is to preside over an impeachment trial in the Senate should it reach that stage. But it's not clear what "preside" actually means. Most constitutional experts agree that it is the Senate that sets the rules, whatever rules the Senate deems appropriate. That would seem to leave no power whatsoever in the hands of the presiding Supreme Court Chief Justice.
But the intent of the framers was certainly not to facilitate a sham impeachment trial, and Roberts undoubtedly understands that. If McConnell's statement in and of itself amounts to an act of misconduct and he is to be taken literally, then the coming trial will surely violate at least the intent of the framers at a bare minimum.
Knowing that in advance creates a dilemma for Roberts. He has been served notice that he will be asked to preside over what the Senate leader openly admits will be a sham trial, in effect making Roberts a co-abuser of the Constitution, with or without his consent. That's not good for the country, the reputation of the Senate, or the reputation of the Supreme Court.
Are Roberts, his reputation, and the reputation of the Court mere passengers on a hijacked impeachment trial express to Sham City? Is Roberts indeed powerless to safeguard the process in any way?
Perhaps, but perhaps not. What if, in light of McConnell's clear statement of intent in advance to misconduct the Senate impeachment trial, Roberts held out, in effect not agreeing to preside unless he were guaranteed the powers needed to ensure what every United States senator, including McConnell, swore in their oath, to "do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God."
McConnell is apparently more than willing to trample on the Constitution and the Republic by putting the Senate under the direct control of the President. Will Roberts consent to allow the Supreme Court to become a co-participant and tool of the Executive Branch as well? Caution: This is consequential.
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