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Senate compliance with the constitution is critical

Melvin B. Miller
Senate compliance with the constitution is critical
“The new year’s party isn’t that fun this year.”

Advent of the new year is usually greeted with great enthusiasm. Optimists are eager to affirm anticipated benefits expected for them in the new year. The pessimists do not usually emerge until the celebrations wane, but 2020 is different. A pall of apprehension has dulled the season’s spirits. The impeachment of the president has forced thinking citizens to confront the fact that the nation’s esteemed democratic republic is in danger.

As in most democratically oriented institutions, the people must decide the outcome. In America, either Donald Trump violated the standard of conduct required by the U.S. Constitution or the nature of those standards has been distorted.

As the enormous power of the presidency became more apparent to him, Trump began to believe that his authority was limitless, like that of an emperor. He seemed to believe that he was above the law. Conservatives in government who supported a more authoritarian form of management supported this point of view. The concept that a sitting president could not be charged with a crime enhanced that authoritarian perspective.

However, Trump lost sight of the fact that Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution provides that “The President … shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Under Article I, Section 3, “… in cases of impeachment … the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law.” Clearly, the president is not above the law.

So the Founding Fathers anticipated and resolved the problem of the authoritarians. Congress was empowered to impeach an offending president, who upon conviction would answer for his offenses in a court of law.

Now, Republican senators plan to free Trump from any offense by refusing to convict him for impeachment. Under Article I, Section 3, “The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation.” This means that they shall have taken an oath to conduct a fair procedure. However, Republican leaders of the Senate seem to be reluctant to permit witnesses and to provide necessary documents. Sen. Mitch McConnell, senate majority leader, has already declared that he is not impartial.

Trump consistently claims that he is innocent of the charges raised in the impeachment hearings. However, his record for candor is assailable. According to the Washington Post, which is keeping track of Trump’s public remarks, he made 1,999 false or misleading claims in 2017 and another 5,689 in 2018, for a total of 7,688. By Dec. 10 of 2019, after 1,055 days in office, Trump had made 15,413 false or misleading claims.

This is not the veracity record of a truth-seeker. American citizens would be advised to require their U.S. senators to uphold a process for impeachment trials that satisfies the requirements of the U.S. Constitution. It should be clear that Trump is concerned only with his self-interest. If he is innocent of violations as he alleges, an open and fair trial will reveal that.

The sanctity of the American democratic republic is at stake. An awareness of the magnitude of the risk of an ill-conceived Senate procedure is what concerns many Americans. We must demand a procedure in the U.S. Senate that meets the requirements of the U.S. Constitution. The people know that the House of Representatives has adduced sufficient evidence to impeach Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors. Trump’s only legitimate defense is to present evidence before the U.S. Senate. He is forced to rely on the faithless and unpatriotic involvement of U.S. senators who are members of the Republican Party.

Is it any wonder that Americans are anxious about the future of the nation?

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