We should be clear about something first before we get into specifics. Anyone can file a formal complaint against any government official (through different procedural means), at any point, about anything. Simply filing a complaint doesn’t alone confer any legitimacy upon the substance or the likelihood that it will ever come to anything.
But some complaints are taken more seriously at the filing stage due to the fact that they are filed by respectable organizations. These organizations have the resources to follow through, and – presumably – the judgment to only file those complaints with a real basis and real hope for punishment.
Having said that, a formal complaint has been filed against McConnell based upon McConnell’s admission that he was working with the White House, and that there would be no difference in positions. Via Rawstory, from the complaint itself:
The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the authority to impeach and remove the president, .. the Constitution states: “When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation.” …the nature and structure of the Constitution suggest an obligation to administer impartial justice in impeachment proceedings.
The “Rules … are more specific. They provide that “the presiding officer shall administer the oath … , which is: “I solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.”
I have previously written that I would encourage any of the Democratic Senators or House impeachment managers to file an oral and written objection just prior to administering the oath to McConnell (or if done generally, just prior to the issuance). I would place the objection directly in the lap of Chief Justice Roberts.
The written objection would set out the basis, and might provide the Democrats an opportunity to argue its merits under the law.
Whether in writing or not, an objection would lead to one of two things: Either C.J. Roberts seriously entertains the objection and agrees to adjudicate whether or not McConnell can sit as a juror. Or, at a minimum, it would be the last issue hanging in the air just prior to issuing the oath. It would be the best means by which Democrats could get the point across – this is a sham, and Republicans engineered it.
Despite all of us knowing of McConnell’s statement and having internalized it to color how we view the proceeding, it is not a given – ever – that the Fox News watching crowd noticed or knew. It would be great to alert or remind them.
The complaint goes on to state:
The notion of impartial justice is crucial to upholding Constitutional values and securing the American people’s confidence in the essential fairness of any Senate trial.
Right, that is the point.
As I said above, who files the complaint is every bit as important as the contents. In this case, it is a serious group that knows how to move a complaint forward.
Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, said that McConnell presiding over “a kangaroo court” in the U.S. Senate “not only mocks the institution,” but actually undermines Trump as well.
“If the public views the trial as rigged,” Holman argued, “a ‘not guilty’ verdict from the Senate will not be seen by the public as grounds for exoneration.”
It is also worthwhile having the complaint itself formally filed when the oath is about to be taken. The Democrats can argue that the complaint would be rendered moot if McConnell were to be sworn-in as a juror, and thus the complaint need be taken-up, as part of the objection, prior to the next stage in the proceeding.
As we often say while litigating, the worst that can happen is that the judge says “no,” and sometimes it is good to let the jury know that you have a problem with something, just to put them on notice. Given that nothing is lost in making the motion, we can invoke yet another cliché from the courtroom, go ahead and file a “motion to win.”
It might not win the day against Trump, but anything that humbles McConnell and holds him accountable for his actions certainly isn’t a loss.
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