Mitch McConnell is a weasel. He is also a very crafty politician. In his mind, moral conviction always takes a back seat to his quest for political power. This was on display Saturday when he voted to acquit Donald Trump on a technicality. Trump incited an insurrection on the very branch of government over which he presides (or presided), but he still chose to hide behind a heavily contested interpretation of the impeachment clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
Here is McConnell in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal:
Jan. 6 was a shameful day. A mob bloodied law enforcement and besieged the first branch of government. American citizens tried to use terrorism to stop a democratic proceeding they disliked.
There is no question former President Trump bears moral responsibility. His supporters stormed the Capitol because of the unhinged falsehoods he shouted into the world’s largest megaphone. His behavior during and after the chaos was also unconscionable, from attacking Vice President Mike Pence during the riot to praising the criminals after it ended.
I was as outraged as any member of Congress. But senators take our own oaths. Our job wasn’t to find some way, any way, to inflict a punishment. The Senate’s first and foundational duty was to protect the Constitution.
Some brilliant scholars believe the Senate can try and convict former officers. Others don’t. The text is unclear, and I don’t begrudge my colleagues their own conclusions. But after intense study, I concluded that Article II, Section 4 limits impeachment and conviction to current officers.
McConnell admits that the Constitution is not clear about whether the Senate can impeach a president after he has left office. It could have gone either way. But when in doubt, McConnell believes, always vote with the party. Maintain power. Since the “text is unclear,” McConnell could have used the ambiguity to convict Trump for inciting an insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. Instead he decided to go with power.
This selective disregard for rules and norms is a civic disease that is spreading through the political left. Senate Democrats relished the legislative filibuster and used it frequently when they were the minority party. Now only two of them pledge to respect it. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has threatened Supreme Court justices by name, and other Democrats submitted a brief demanding the court rule their way or be “restructured.” As recently as September, fewer than half of Democrats professed confidence that elections are free and fair. In November, that number shot up to more than 90%—because they liked the result.
The nation needs real constitutional champions, not fair-weather institutionalists. The Senate’s duty last week was clear. It wasn’t to guarantee a specific punishment at any cost. Our job was to defend the Constitution and respect its limits. That is what our acquittal delivered.
Read the entire piece here.