On impeachment, Lindsey Graham won't 'pretend to be a fair juror'

Late last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) faced immediate blowback after promising Fox News' audience that he would remain in "total coordination" with the White House as the impeachment process against Donald Trump advances. In apparent reference to the GOP leadership in the Senate, McConnell added, "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."

In other words, the Senate's top Republican, who'll soon serve as a juror, intends to partner with the defendant and rig the trial to benefit the accused.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) saw the controversy that ensued after McConnell's comments, but it didn't stop the South Carolinian from being even more explicit about ensuring that the fix is in before the trial even gets underway.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Saturday that he's made up his mind that President Trump should be acquitted, dismissed the notion that he has to be a "fair juror" and said he doesn't see the need for a formal trial in the Senate.Graham, a staunch defender of the president, made the comments overseas during an interview with CNN International at the Doha Forum in Qatar.

The Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee specifically said, "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."

On CBS's Face the Nation, Graham, who's grown quite incurious about basic details of recent White House scandals, added, "I don't need any witnesses."

Senate rules require members to take a specific oath before an impeachment trial gets underway: "I solemnly swear (or affirm) that in all things appertaining to the trial of ____, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God."

By their own admission, Graham and McConnell intend to take the oath, solemnly swear, and then ignore their duties. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee can't even bother to keep up appearances, refusing to "pretend to be a fair juror."

As a rule, I'm reluctant to look back at American political history and pine for "good ol' days" that weren't nearly as good as some like to think, but the Washington Post recently noted the efforts of then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) as they prepared for Bill Clinton's impeachment trial.

The House had voted out two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, and the Senate majority leader did not want to see the pending trial turn into a three-ring circus."Tom, whether we like it or not, this is in our lap," Lott (R-Miss.) told Daschle (D-S.D.), then the minority leader. "I'd like to work with you to make sure it's done in a fair way and in a responsible way."As Daschle recalls, Lott said he was "mortified" by the hyper-partisanship in the House and wanted to make sure the Senate emerged with its integrity intact.

If only Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham could bring themselves to express similar concerns about the integrity of the process and the institution in which they serve.

In February 1999, the New York Times reported on the impressive partnership Lott and Daschle forged during the Clinton impeachment. It wasn't easy, and at times they worked on deals that fell through, but the two were determined to oversee a trial and a process that reflected well on the Senate, its members, and the country. By most reasonable measures, they succeeded.

Two decades later, Republican leaders like McConnell and Graham are, without embarrassment, committed to serving, protecting, and shielding Trump -- above any other consideration, regardless of their impact on the rule of law or the Senate itself.

History will not be kind.