If the proper way to hold President Donald Trump accountable for his actions is an election, it should also be applied to every senator.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wanted the two articles of impeachment brought by the House of Representatives to be dismissed without a Senate trial. When that didn’t work, he planned for testimony to be held in a compressed timetable in the middle of the night. Only some parliamentary maneuvering and skilled use of time by House members thwarted those efforts.
In the end, as expected, none of it will matter. Republican senators generally agreed that the president did try to extort Ukraine to help him hurt a political rival and obstruct efforts to investigate that extortion attempt. They will acquit him today anyway.
They will rely on law professor Alan Dershowitz’s phantasmagoric rationale. Every officeholder believes he or she is best for the country, Dershowitz said. Therefore, committing abuses to achieve re-election to that office can’t be impeachable.
That argument should make your head swim. So should the fact that the most powerful juror, i.e. McConnell, sought approval from the accused, the president, about the impeachment trial’s final phase.
Trump will continue being Trump. Voters can hold him accountable for failing to honor his oath of office in November. Of course, the assumption that he won’t use this get-out-of-jail card to invite further interference is unrealistic.
The greater threat is in McConnell’s failure to play the critical role of counter-balance to the presidency’s growing imperial power.
Members of Congress are representatives, elected to think for themselves as they act as the people’s conscience in Washington, D.C. Instead, majority Senate Republicans laid there like floormats.
The balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of government is the lynchpin that keeps our uniquely successful form of representative democracy functioning. If the legislative branch is unwilling to exercise its oversight function, nothing can stop a president from doing anything he or she wants to do.
Trump has signaled as much. He told a recent gaggle of reporters that Article 2 of the Constitution gives the president “unbelievable powers.”
Unless Congress reasserts its power as an equal branch of government, the president will be no different than any other autocrat, and the United States will no longer be a true democracy.
Senators unwilling to stand up for the power of their offices should lose them.