Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

If the Senate won’t do its constitutional duty to conduct a real trial, Roberts should make them. (Photo: Shutterstock)

If the Senate won’t do its constitutional duty to conduct a real trial, Roberts should make them. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The Senate’s Make-Believe Trial of Donald Trump

In my 40 years as a lawyer, I’ve never seen a trial flout the basic requirements for fairness so brazenly.

Mitchell Zimmerman

 by OtherWords

President Trump is on trial.

As in a real trial, charges have been asserted: the House alleges high crimes and misdemeanors. A judge presides: Chief Justice John Roberts sits in his fine black robe at the head of the chamber. There are prosecutors (the House impeachment managers) and defense counsel (Trump’s “A-team” of lawyers).

And pursuant to our Constitution, the jurors—the members of the Senate—have sworn an oath to render “impartial justice” at the end of the trial.

So, it looks like a trial. Except that in my 40 years as a lawyer, I’ve never seen a trial that corruptly flouted the basic requirements for fairness as brazenly as this one.

In a real trial, any juror who admitted conspiring with the defendant would be unceremoniously ejected from the jury. Yet Republican Senate leader and sworn-to-be-impartial juror Mitch McConnell openly proclaims on television, “Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with White House counsel.”

Only in Alice in Wonderland would we expect a verdict prior to jury deliberations—or a juror like Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who announced his vote before the trial began: “I am trying to give a pretty clear signal I have made up my mind. I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.”

A trial without evidence—the testimony of witnesses and documents—is a travesty of justice.

Still more bizarre is a “trial” where the jurors refuse to consider evidence. Ten Republican Senators proposed to dismiss the case without any proceedings, and McConnell is against having witnesses testify or produce documents.

A trial without evidence—the testimony of witnesses and documents—is a travesty of justice.

Just recently, we learned that John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser,  said that Trump privately admitted he was holding up aid to Ukraine until Ukraine launched investigations of Democrats. That’s the central charge of the House impeachment managers.

Trump disputes Bolton’s account. So, someone is lying.

In a trial, the jury usually decides which party is lying by seeing how they hold up under cross-examination, which 19th century jurist John Henry Wigmore described as “the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.”

No wonder Trump’s men don’t want a real trial. The last thing they want is Donald Trump on the witness stand.

Instead, they argue that Bolton’s allegations should be ignored because “we do not deal with allegations that are not based on evidentiary standards.” Actually, that is precisely the reason his testimony should be heard: because it is evidence.

Is it too late to do anything about McConnell’s scheme to hastily absolve the president?

Well, a handful of Republican senators could turn the make-believe trial into a real one by insisting that witnesses and documents be subpoenaed and heard, voting against the false time limits on the trial, and taking the issues seriously.

The presiding judge, Chief Justice Roberts, could also act like a real judge.

He could challenge the presence on the impeachment trial jury of those who admitted they won’t provide the “impartial justice” they swore to render. And he could issue subpoenas and indeed even call witnesses on his own initiative, as required for a thorough and just adjudication.

Instead, Roberts seems to be fervently wishing he were somewhere else, perhaps trying to burnish the court’s little-deserved reputation for even-handed justice.

But Roberts can’t escape the battle over whether the Senate engages in a sham proceeding or an honest one. As the Constitution requires, he presides. If the Senate won’t do its constitutional duty to conduct a real trial, Roberts should make them.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Mitchell Zimmerman

Mitchell Zimmerman

Mitchell Zimmerman is an attorney, longtime social activist, and author of the anti-racism thriller "Mississippi Reckoning" (2019).

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

Pointing to 'Recently Obtained Evidence,' Jan. 6 Panel Calls Surprise Tuesday Hearing

The announcement came less than a week after the House panel delayed new hearings until next month, citing a "deluge" of fresh evidence.

Common Dreams staff ·


Looming US Supreme Court Climate Decision Could 'Doom' Hope for Livable Future

"The immediate issue is the limits of the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases," said one scientist. "The broader issue is the ability of federal agencies to regulate anything at all."

Jessica Corbett ·


Abortion Rights Groups Sue to Block Post-Roe Trigger Laws in Louisiana

"We will be fighting to restore access in Louisiana and other states for as long as we can," said one reproductive rights campaigner.

Jake Johnson ·


Progressives Launch 'Four More' Campaign to Demand Supreme Court Expansion

"In a true democracy, power rests with the people," one campaigner asserted. "And the only way to take our power back is to take back the court."

Brett Wilkins ·


Poll Shows Majority Oppose Supreme Court's Attack on Fundamental Rights

Fifty-six percent of respondents said they're now concerned the court will attack marriage equality and the right to obtain contraception.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo