Senator's Cynical Take on Trump's Expected Acquittal Stuns MSNBC's Melber: 'Step Towards Authoritarianism... Elected Monarch'

Independent Maine Senator Angus King took MSNBC Chief Legal Correspondent Ari Melber by surprise Monday by declaring that an acquittal of President Donald Trump, which is expected to happen Wednesday in the Senate, would be a "step towards authoritarianism."

King was in favor of allowing new testimony and documents into Trump's impeachment trial, a motion that was voted down in the Senate Friday by a vote of 51-49.

Trump's acquittal, said King, goes against the system of institutional checks and balances that has been in place for hundreds of years.

"Democracy is unusual in world history," King explained. "The norm is some kind of authoritarianism, dictators, kings, princes, emperors, you name it. And we are a 200-plus year experiment, and I think what's going on right now is a step toward authoritarianism."

"It is allowing an elected monarch, and that's really what the framers were worried about," King continued. "That's why they put the impeachment clause in. There were people who said you don't need it because you have elections. But they said, no, you've got to have some kind of a check on somebody and particularly what makes it even more powerful in this case is the offense we're talking about involves meddling with the election."

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Independent Maine Senator Angus King said Monday that President Donald Trump's expected acquittal in his impeachment trial was a "step towards authoritarianism" in the United States. Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty

"If the election itself is the cure, but we can't trust that the incumbent won't, you know, finagle the election, it's not the cure," King added.

Melber seemed surprised by King's comments, telling the senator he was "known more for your moderation and your caution than I think for your rhetoric."

"If a president can say, 'We're not going to share any information, any documents, any witnesses, and we're going to block all witnesses then the impeachment clause is essentially a nullity," King said. "Obviously, you can't convict somebody if they control the flow of the evidence."

King said he was worried that the precedent set by the Senate's decision.

"Congress has been committing slow-motion institutional suicide for about 50 years," King said. "The war power, the power over trade, even the power of the purse now, appropriated funds the president can grab and use for some other purpose. And now we're talking about one of the major checks. What we're doing is skewing the balance here and it really worries me."

"The Congress has found that the President has an absolute right to to to stifle information that's available from the executive branch," King said in an email sent to Newsweek. "That is, I think the biggest step toward authoritarianism we've ever taken in our country's history. And I don't think it's fully realized."

"I don't think that the House managers emphasized that they did talk about it, but I don't think they really got to the heart of how dangerous this is," King continued. "That there are things at stake here that go way beyond Donald Trump in the 2016 election to the 2020 election. We're talking about a fundamental change in the way our government works."

King's office told Newsweek on Monday that the senator will soon be releasing an op-ed furthering clarifying his stance on Trump's impeachment.