As the U.S. Senate on Tuesday began debating the rules that will dictate the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump going forward, progressive groups continued their denunciation of the proposal put forth by Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who they charge has set the stage for a legal process that will "amount to nothing more than a fact-free sham trial perpetrated in the dead of night."
That specific characterization was from Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, who echoed both Democratic members of Congress and other outside voices who have made clear their belief that McConnell and his fellow Republicans are not interested in offering the American people a transparent look at the facts or upholding their constitutional oath to act as unbiased jurors, but are instead operating to cover for the president.
"Any Senator voting for this proposal is voting to bring shame upon themselves and upon the United States Senate," said Hobert Flynn. "The trial proposal would not necessarily allow witnesses, hear new evidence, or even admit existing evidence from the House unless a majority of Senators agree to it."
Watch Thursday's floor debate over the trial rules:
In his opening remarks Tuesday afternoon as the debate over the rules began, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asked, "If the president is so confident in his case, if Leader McConnell is so confident the president did nothing wrong, why don't they want the case to be presented in broad daylight?"
The rules package proposed by McConnell, said Schumer, "is nothing short of a national disgrace."
SCHUMER: If the president is so confident in his case, if Leader McConnell is so confident the president did nothing wrong, why don't they want the case to be presented in broad daylight?
— Stand Up America (@StandUpAmerica) January 21, 2020
An impeachment trial like the one proposed by McConnell, said Hobert Flynn, "would be a rush to a predetermined judgement—a disgraceful judgement condoning the abuse of the powers of the office of the President of the United States. We urge Republican Senators to put their country before their party and reject the show trial proposed by Sen. McConnell. History and the American people are watching."
It’s a historic day -- Trump’s Senate impeachment trial is currently underway -- but the rules proposed by Mitch McConnell are anything but fair.
— Indivisible Guide (@IndivisibleTeam) January 21, 2020
While McConnell's conduct has stirred outrage among those demanding a fair trial—with the impeachment rules sparking the latest McConnell-themed hashtag on social media, #MidnightMitch—journalist Sean Illing wrote for Vox.com that nobody familiar with the Majority Leader will be shocked in the least by what the nation is now witnessing.
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For those who don't know McConnell, Illing explained, "know this: He's arguably the most ruthless political operator in American politics and has almost single-handedly broken the Senate." He further noted:
McConnell has reportedly said in private that he wants a short trial with no witnesses called to testify, and he's said publicly that the outcome of the trial is basically already determined. Given what we know about McConnell, this isn't surprising.
In their response to Trump's official answer to impeachment charges levied against him, the House Managers—a seven-member team of House Democrats prosecuting the case against Trump before the Senate and the presiding Supreme Court Justice John Roberts—on Tuesday said the responsibility before senators is fundamental to the oath to the constitution each of them took.
The fact that Trump "continues to insist that he has done nothing wrong" and "that he cannot be held accountable, except in an election he seeks to fix in his favor, underscores the need for the Senate to exercise its solemn constitutional duty to remove President Trump from office," the Managers said in a joint statement.
"If the Senate does not convict and remove President Trump," they continued, "he will have succeeded in placing himself above the law. Each Senator should set aside partisanship and politics and hold President Trump accountable to protect our national security and democracy."
The Democrats held a mid-day press conference Thursday to detail their displeasure with McConnell's proposal:
While Trump and his GOP allies have asserted that the kind of abuse of power for which the president stands accused does not warrant impeachment, the Democrat's prosecution team said such a position is not only wrong, but dangerous.
"That argument would mean that, even accepting that the House's recitation of the facts is correct—which it is—the House lacks authority to remove a President who sells out our democracy and national security in exchange for a personal political favor," the Managers wrote. "The Framers of our Constitution took pains to ensure that such egregious abuses of power would be impeachable."
The seriousness of the charges against the president, and the preponderance of evidence, has led critics of McConnell to only be more outspoken about his central role in helping to run interference for Trump.
"This is not a process for a fair trial, this is the process for a rigged trial," said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and lead manager for the Senate trial.
Like countless others, Schiff to described what the Senate is doing with one hyphenated word. It's a "cover-up," he said.