TESSA GOULD: Whose Side Is the Senate On? Trump’s or America’s?

The Senate trial for Trump’s impeachment is finally underway in Washington and could last anywhere from two to four weeks, or even six as it did during the last U.S. impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. Regardless of how many weeks drag on, the trial will end with the president either still in office or removed for his crimes. As the country waits for the results of the Senate proceedings, my question is, why is there still no agreement between the parties on how the impeachment trial should be conducted?

All facts point to the Republican majority seeking to suppress witness testimony and evidence in the case. 

The impeachment process, as laid out in the U.S. Constitution, is a system that gives the president in question a fair opportunity to make his/her case. Here, President Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for two things: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. But, for some reason, Senate Republicans seem completely unconvinced a trial is necessary or legitimate, appearing to have already decided the president should be acquitted of the two counts. (Did they not read the Trump-Zelensky call memo?)

The last time Congress had an impeachment trial, the House and Senate had a very different relationship. Clinton was on trial for similarly grave charges, for perjury and obstruction of justice, but the chambers took more of a consensus approach. Now, the two are more polarized than ever, making 1999 look like political bliss. 

Republicans in both chambers are refusing to investigate and analyze the testimony and evidence of the case, and in doing so, they are refusing to join together with Democrats to do what is right and just for the American people – a commitment each member has pledged to uphold.

The majority-Republican Senate is blinded with partisan allegiance to Trump, rather than driven by duty to our country. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) even went so far as to tell reporters, “I’m not an impartial juror. This is a political process … I’m not impartial at all.”

This should raise alarms for anyone in politics and has for many, including multiple former North Dakota senators who participated in the 1999 trial. Former Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), who I’ve had the pleasure of working with, has criticized Leader McConnell’s actions, saying, “I sat in the last Senate trial 20 years ago, what Sen. McConnell did is just unfathomable to me, it’s just monumentally wrong.”

So, with the partisan foot forward, how will the Senate impeachment proceedings continue in the coming weeks? 

According to former North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), also involved in the Clinton trial, “It is a bad beginning, but that doesn’t dictate the ending. We could have some people have a crisis of conscience and realize that history is going to judge them on how they perform here.”

It’s more crucial than ever Congress carries out this process fairly and doesn’t just sweep the president’s crimes under the rug. In Trump’s three years in office too many historical presidential conventions have been broken, and refusing to recognize this highly public display of his lies may spell disaster for the future of the presidency and our democracy. It will set a precedent that allows leaders of our country to feel protected by a partisan president who is more loyal to his/her personal interest than the interests of the American people. 

So, I ask, whose side are Senate Republicans on – Trump’s or the American people? 

For more information on the impeachment proceedings and how rural Americans are viewing the process, check out the One Country Project’s latest impeachment trackers here and former North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s blog here.

Tessa Gould