Perhaps the most important issue in the Senate impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump is whether Senators will honor their Oath of Office and their Oath to serve as impartial jurors in the trial, to “do impartial justice according to the constitutions and laws”.
Do these Oaths mean anything? If they don’t the trial is a sham, just like the trial of Alexei Navalny in Moscow this week.
If their oaths are meaningless and the trial is a sham, then the Constitution has lost its force and in important respects has also become a sham.
The procedural vote on whether or not to proceed to a trial, in view of the objections of most Republicans that the Constitution does not permit the trial of a President who has left office, failed by a vote of 45-55. Those opposed were all Republicans.
The decision on this procedural vote, like all procedural votes in the Senate, is binding on all Senators.
All Senators are therefore bound to uphold their Oath of Office to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…(and to) well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.” Among those duties is the duty to “do impartial justice according to the constitutions and laws”, in the words of their impartial juror oath.
Consequently, Senators by their oaths are bound to consider impartially the charges and facts argued before them in the trial.
They cannot, while still honoring their oaths, refuse to convict Donald Trump on the ground that the trial is not constitutional.
They lost that procedural vote, which did not go to the merits of the trial.
All Senators are bound by the Senate’s decision, by a vote of 55-45, that the trial is constitutional.
Therefore, there are two critical questions being addressed in the Senate trial of ex-President Donald J. Trump.
First, will all Senators honor their oaths of office and their oaths to serve as impartial jurors?
Second, is Donald Trump guilty of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” charged in the Article of Impeachment approved by the House of Representatives?
The first of the two questions may well be the more important of the two. All federal officers take an oath to uphold the Constitution. If Senators are not bound by that oath, then logically neither are they.
The Oath of Office of Senators is essential to their constitutional role and function. It is not a separable clause of the Constitution.
Yet a curious and alarming thing has happened in recent years. Some Senators no longer take their solemn oaths of office or their oaths to serve as an impartial juror in an impeachment trial seriously.
They act as if their oaths are meaningless.
Are they subordinate to the cult of opportunism in Washington?
Are they meaningless in a Godless America, in which there is nothing anymore that is sacred?
Can the Constitution serve to guarantee our democracy when no one really pledges their allegiance and their sacred honor to uphold and defend it, “against all enemies foreign and domestic”?
The Declaration of Independence of 1776 concludes with the following words:
“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.“
The Solemn Oaths Sworn by Members of the United States Senate are the following:
I. The Oath of Office
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”
–United States Senate
Ii. The Oath to be an impartial juror in an impeachment trial
“I solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be,) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the constitutions abd laws: so help me God.”
Michael Zeldin,”How Senators and the Chief Justice can ensure a full and fair trial (Opinion by CNN Legal Analyst), CNN, January 21, 2020 (Updated 10:24 PM ET).
The Trenchant Observer