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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

The U.S. Senate is a political courtroom, not a criminal one

Members of the House Judiciary Committee voted Friday

Members of the House Judiciary Committee voted Friday to approve impeachment articles, as a prelude to the expected Senate trial of President Donald Trump. Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite

Now the tenor of outcry shifts — from Republicans accusing Democrats of contriving allegations against President Donald Trump to Democrats protesting what they see as the GOP rigging the upcoming Senate trial in his favor.

None of the posturing should come as a surprise.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his peers of both parties effectively act as jurors in such a process. They get to decide Trump's guilt or innocence.

But nobody was expecting the kind of unbiased approach that the system demands in a criminal court case.

That is not the nature of this political beast.

The House Judiciary Committee on Friday approved impeachment articles that charge Trump with abusing his powers and obstructing Congress. A vote by the full House is expected this week that would then send the matter to the Senate for its foregone conclusion.

McConnell told Trump confederate Sean Hannity of Fox News there was "zero chance" the president would be removed and vowed "total coordination" with the White House and the president's lawyers.

“The case is so darn weak coming over from the House,” McConnell said with full partiality. “We all know how it’s going to end.”

"Everything I do during this I'm coordinating with White House counsel," he said. "There will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this."

That's a response to the earlier differences between him and Trump over whether to extend the fixed upper-house procedure or keep it short. All along he has been telling Republican voters back in Kentucky that it is his conference that stands between Trump and removal.

Congress is the arm of the government whose members are expected to be the most parochial and party-driven. It is impractical to suggest they would act free of the biases on which they were elected. They seek to persuade rather than mediate or arbitrate.

During President Bill Clinton's impeachment, the president was in contact with the Democratic senators who decided his fate in his favor, according to published accounts.

President Richard Nixon, a Republican, faced certain conviction by a Democratic-controlled Senate when he resigned.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Queens) told CNN that "the jury, Senate Republicans, are going to coordinate with the defendant, Donald Trump, on how exactly the kangaroo court is going to be run."

"Kangaroo" or not, trumped-up or not, successful or not, impeachment is a unique invention.


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