If Mitch McConnell is Biased on Impeachment, Then So Is Almost Every Democratic Senator | Opinion

Kentucky's Mitch McConnell spent much of the holiday season being dragged over the coals. His comment about not being an "impartial juror" in the upcoming Senate trial of Donald J. Trump produced howls of outrage from those who are certain the president is guilty.

They claim their concerns have to do with McConnell and others not fulfilling their Constitutional duty to judge impartially. Except there's no requirement in the Constitution that senators be impartial. I suppose we presume they should be, based on what we understand about the American system of jurisprudence. The right to a fair and speedy trial is one of those basic constitutional protections well known to those who learned their law from Perry Mason, Matlock, Law & Order, and Boston Legal. But McConnell is only one of one hundred who will sit in judgment once the trial begins. If an impartiality standard exists for him, then it exists for the others too, right? Yet there is no guarantee any of the others will rise to what anti-Trump partisans now demand of Kentucky's senior senator.

South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has already said that as far as he is concerned the issue is a dead letter. For that, he too has been widely criticized. But if you look, it's just as easy to find Democrats who've prejudged the president, perhaps even easier than it is to find Republicans whose minds are made up. Their rhetoric may have softened in the days following the House vote, but they also haven't renounced what they said.

A quick search online yields plenty of material. Let's check the record.

  • New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who wants to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2020 and who will be sitting in judgment of Trump, said: "In 2016, Trump welcomed foreign adversaries to meddle in our democracy for his own gain. Now he appears to be using the same playbook to remain in power. I applaud Speaker Pelosi's announcement of an impeachment inquiry—it's our one remaining path to ensuring justice is served." Doesn't sound like he's prepared to weigh the evidence with an open mind, does it?
  • What about these comments from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren? "I called for impeachment five months ago, the day after the Mueller report came out. Trump continues to commit crimes because he believes he's above the law." And: "The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States."
  • California Sen. Kamala Harris isn't running for president anymore but, while she was, she certainly made her views on the issue clear. Take this tweet: "Donald Trump has abused his power, obstructed justice, and violated his oath of office. He puts his political interests over our national interest. I agree with @SpeakerPelosi— no one is above the law. He must be impeached." She's still in the Senate so she too is on the jury,
  • Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has called Trump "most corrupt president in the history of this country" and said that "in terms of the recent Ukrainian incident, the idea that we have a President of the United States who is prepared to hold back national security money to one of our allies in order to get dirt on a presidential candidate is beyond comprehension." Doesn't sound very open-minded to me.
  • Minnesota's Amy Klobuchar, another who'll serve on the jury judging Trump already pronounced him guilty when she said, "When he made that call to the head of Ukraine, he's digging up dirt on an opponent. That's illegal conduct. That's what he was doing."

The rush to judgment, it's clear, is not just on one side of the aisle. The president's been prejudged by plenty of the people who hold his fate in their hands. This is no surprise. This has been a partisan process from day one. Not a single Republican joined the Democrats in voting for either article of impeachment.

There have been plenty in the GOP who've criticized the president's judgment and are not at all happy with the way he's conducted himself in office—but they don't, apparently, find any of it to have risen to a level requiring his removal from office.

Trump is certainly a different kind of president than any we've seen in my lifetime. He's divisive. He's combative. He may even be a bad one—although the strength of the economy, the record-low unemployment numbers and other factors argue against that proposition—but we don't impeach presidents because they're not good at the job. If we did, there are at least a half dozen who would have been removed from office long before the voters gave them the heave-ho as soon as was possible. This is about politics and always has been.

Newsweek contributing editor Peter Roff has written extensively about politics and the American experience for U.S. News and World Report, United Press International, and other publications. He can be reached by email at RoffColumns@GMAIL.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeterRoff.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.