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Democrats question fairness of Senate trial after Graham, McConnell statements

Democrats on Sunday said they were concerned that statements from several GOP senators showed they wouldn’t be impartial jurors during President Trump‘s Senate impeachment trial.

At the heart of the controversy is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) remarks last week that he’ll be in “total coordination” with the White House on impeachment. 

Democrats said that goes against the oath that senators will take before the start of the trial.

“It’s why I’m so disappointed in my colleagues’ see-no-evil, hear-no-evil attitude,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “That they don’t want to look at anything that might disagree with their world view of Republicanism and this president.”

Brown said he has “very strong feelings” about Trump’s conduct and supported impeachment, but said he won’t make a decision until after he hears evidence at trial on whether Trump’s actions rise to the level of removal from office. 

Similarly, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that senators need to “consider evidence” in order to have an “actual trial” and urged McConnell to sit down with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to ensure a trial happens in a “proper, bi-partisan” way. 

Some Republican senators have signaled they already know which way they’ll vote at the end of the expected Senate trial. 

“I [have] clearly made up my mind, I’m not trying to hide the fact that I have disdain for the accusations in the process, so I don’t need any witnesses,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on “Face the Nation. 

“I am ready to vote on the underlying articles, I don’t really need to hear a lot of witnesses,” he added. 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said, like his Democratic colleagues, that he fully intends to follow his oath.

“But the oath of a Senate juror — it has some similarities to a criminal trial, but it has some differences as well,” Cruz added, pushing back on accusations that McConnell and Graham’s statements have in any way violated the oath senators will take. 

“This remains a political process,” Cruz said. “The framers knew what they were doing when they put it into the political branches.”  

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) predicted no Senate Republicans will vote to remove Trump and accused Democrats of attempting to “criminalize politics” by trying to impeach trump over a “disagreement.”

He dismissed allegations that Trump did anything wrong, and said the process was simply moving forward because “people on the Democratic side don’t like President Trump.”

Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general who recently joined Trump‘s impeachment messaging team, also pushed back over concerns that the Senate working with the White House blocks senators from being impartial jurors. 

“These are the senators who will decide if our president is impeached, which will not happen, we should and will work hand-in-hand with them,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Trump is expected to be acquitted in the Republican-controlled Senate; no Republican senators have publicly signaled they would vote to remove Trump. 

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Trump’s acquittal in Senate would not mean impeachment was a “failure” for House Democrats. 

“At least it’s not a failure in the sense of our constitutional duty in the House,” Schiff said on ABC’s “This Week.” 

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) also brushed off the suggestion that Democrats failed their own “test” by not garnering Republican support. 

“This is a continuing threat to the integrity of our elections now,” Nadler replied. “This is not a one-off — impeachment is not a punishment for past behavior.”

“He poses a continuing threat to our national security and to the integrity of our elections, to our Democratic system itself,” Nadler added. “We cannot permit that to continue.”

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