In late September, as Donald Trump's Ukraine scandal started to come into focus, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) demurred in response to reporters' questions, explaining that she'd likely be "a juror" in the president's impeachment trial. To draw conclusions about Trump's guilt or the merits of the allegations, the senator said, might suggest she was "prejudging" the accused.
There are, of course, key qualitative differences between an actual trial in an American courtroom and a presidential impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, but in a broad sense, senators do serve as jurors. In theory, they have a responsibility to weigh the seriousness of the allegations, consider the evidence, and decide the fate of the accused.
But as Trump's impeachment process advances, some Republicans are comfortable abandoning the pretense of independence and impartiality. USA Today reported overnight:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday that he will be in "total coordination with the White House counsel" as the impeachment into President Donald Trump presses forward.
During an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, the Majority Leader said that "everything" he does "during this, I'm coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this, to the extent that we can."
Oh. So despite weeks of GOP senators occasionally sidestepping questions about the White House scandal, claiming that they're jurors who want to maintain the appearance of neutrality, Mitch McConnell -- in effect, the jury foreman -- is coordinating with the defendant's lawyers.
Indeed, the Republican leader's interview followed a Capitol Hill meeting last night with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and White House Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland.
During last night's marathon session in the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) learned of McConnell's comments and alerted his colleagues, explaining, "In other words, the jury -- Senate Republicans -- are going to coordinate with the defendant -- Donald Trump -- on how exactly the kangaroo court is going to be run."
On Twitter, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) added that McConnell is "proudly announcing he is planning to rig the impeachment trial for Trump."