Mitch McConnell has received a lot of criticism for a statement earlier this month that he’d be “coordinating” with the Trump White House on the forthcoming impeachment trial in the Senate. “Everything I do during this, I will be coordinating with White House counsel,” he said.
The media was aghast, and Democrats were horrified. “Saying you’re going to do just what the president wants is totally out of line,” said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Even pseudo-Republican Lisa Murkowski jumped on the outrage bandwagon. “When I heard that, I was disturbed,” she said. “To me, it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense, and so I heard what leader McConnell had said, I happened to think that that has further confused the process.”
However, all the outrage is grossly misplaced, as McConnell’s statement simply follows the precedent set during Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment. Fox News noted that in the book The Breach: Inside the Impeachment and Trial of William Jefferson Clinton, published in 2000 and written by Peter Baker, then of the Washington Post, that Senate Democrats coordinated with the Clinton White House during his impeachment trial. Fox News’ Adam Shaw explains that “According to Baker, one of those arrangements involved White House Counsel Charles Ruff arranging a ‘secret signal’ with Democratic leadership. If Ruff wanted to rebut anything from the Republican House managers, something rules didn’t allow for, he pre-arranged with then-Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle’s aides for a senator to submit a question to then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist asking the White House to respond.” Several Democrat Senators allowed themselves to “be used this way.”
According to the book, there was also a coordinated pressure campaign to defeat an attempt by Senator Susan Collins to adopt a “findings of fact” and have the Senate take a majority vote on whether Clinton lied under oath and impeded discovery, regardless of whether the Senate failed to convict him. Baker also described how Democrats decided to ask softball questions to White House lawyers “so they could score rhetorical points.”
Chuck Schumer has also been critical of McConnell for his declaring there was no way the Senate would convict Trump. “I was disappointed to hear yesterday that Leader McConnell declared that he would not be an impartial juror when it comes to the serious charges against President Trump,” Schumer said in a recent floor speech. “He said it proudly. What kind of example does that set to the country that is looking for fairness and impartiality?” But, during the Clinton impeachment, Schumer was preaching the opposite of what he’s saying now.
Speaking on CNN’s “Larry King Live” in January 1999, Schumer said the trial in the Senate was not like a jury box.
“We have a pre-opinion,” Schumer said, citing himself and two newly-elected Republican senators who had voted on impeachment in 1998 as members of the House of Representatives who said they would vote in the Senate. “This is not a criminal trial, but this is something that the Founding Fathers decided to put in a body that was susceptible to the whims of politics.”
“So therefore, anybody taking an oath tomorrow can have a pre-opinion; it’s not a jury box,” King asked Schumer.
“Many do,” Schumer responded. “And then they change. In fact, it’s also not like a jury box in the sense that people will call us and lobby us. You don’t have jurors called and lobbied and things like that. I mean, it’s quite different than a jury. And we’re also the judge.”
Schumer proudly boasted that he’d already made up his mind on impeaching Clinton in advance, just as he’s already made up his mind about impeaching Trump. Schumer is a world-class hypocrite for criticizing McConnell for sharing the same views on impeachment partiality that he did back in 1999.