For a moment, imagine a scenario where a potential juror declares outside a courtroom that he believes the trial for which he is about to sit is rigged and that he's already made up his mind that it's a sham.
We don't think any judge would stand for such sabotage. And even the most rudimentary civics course says that being a juror is one of the rights, privileges and responsibility of citizenship in America.
And yet, Montana's Sen. Steve Daines is failing the Constitution, failing to do the job he was elected to do, and failing the most basic precept of citizenship — to be a fair, impartial juror, when called to do so.
Of course, the jury on which he will likely sit is one of 100 U.S. senators, not 12 jurors. But the stakes will be just as high as the Senate debates the articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump.
Instead of exercising his constitutionally mandated role of impartial juror, he's instead made repeated statements about the impeachment being a sham and siding with partisans on the right who believe that Trump has not only done nothing wrong, but cannot do wrong, period. It's sycophantic to the point of being sick.
What is it about politicians who constantly refer to the sacred mettle of the Constitution and then choose to actually act opposite of its mandates?
Article I, Section 3, Clauses 6 and 7 say that the power to try impeachment rests with the Senate: "The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation."
An oath or an affirmation means that Daines is required, by no less than the Founding Fathers and framers of the Constitution, to reserve judgment, hear facts and call witnesses.
Instead, Daines and others in the Senate have threatened that if U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, does not transmit the articles within 25 days, they will become null and void. And yet, the Constitution puts no such constraints on impeachment. Furthermore, Daines' Senate boss, Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has threatened that instead of holding a full-scale trial that has integrity, he will not call witnesses and try to dispense with the charges as soon as possible.
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That's an oath of a different nature.
But, it doesn't make the constitutionally requirement any less significant.
Daines has repeatedly dodged the question of whether it was appropriate to ask a foreign country to interfere with our elections by investigating a rival of Trump. Those are the undisputed facts, but Daines lacks the moral courage to condemn what more than half the nation believes is an action worthy of removal from office — and that comes from a FOX television poll.
Republicans would like to make this issue about some obsessive Democratic grudge against Trump. Undoubtedly, there is political bad blood between the two parties. Yet, this is about the impropriety of withholding desperately needed funds to a NATO ally fighting Russia until it investigates an American citizen. The Democrats could hate Trump all they want, but they did not stop funding or ask for an investigation. The Democrats base the articles of impeachment on the Ukrainian moves by the president.
We have begun to see some senators stand up to the White House in the aftermath of the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. We can hope that this recent reversal of blind adulation starts a trend that empowers members of Congress, regardless of party, to exercise their co-equal role and check the power of a questionable presidency.
Our Founding Fathers had a remarkable, inspired wisdom when they conceived this new Republic. They understood it would only work if the three branches checked each other's power and that they remain independent.
Daines' calls to Pelosi to "send it or end it" are clever, but they're a complete forfeiture of the same Constitution he swore to uphold, defend and protect.
Montanans deserve an independent senator who has the intellectual integrity and the moral courage to do the job he was elected to do. We deserve and the U.S. Constitution demands it.