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Senate trial underway beneath a shadow of partisanship

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell exits the Senate chambers on Capitol Hill on Thursday.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell exits the Senate chambers on Capitol Hill on Thursday.Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Senators’ oath of office does matter here

It is too often said that a Senate trial following impeachment is political, so the Senate can proceed in whichever way it chooses. Yes, the Senate is a political body, but that does not make an impeachment trial political.

As retired federal judge Nancy Gertner clarifies (“What the Constitution actually says about a Senate impeachment trial,” Opinion, Jan. 14), the Senate has a constitutional obligation (Article I, Section 3) to “try” an impeachment case in accordance with “the specific meaning [of the term “trial”] in the 18th century, not unlike its meaning today.” Thus, if the Senate trial of President Trump disregards the basic elements of a trial, it would violate the Constitution.


While there is no judicial remedy for such a violation, the absence of a further remedy would not make unconstitutional proceedings constitutional. The Senate is obligated to follow the Constitution; senators, upon taking office, take an oath as required by Article 6, “to support this Constitution.” Approximately 500 lawyers nationwide have made this point in a letter now being circulated.

Michael Altman


The writer is a signatory to the open letter to the Senate.

In a real trial, we wouldn’t settle for such a jury

I was watching the senators being sworn in for the impeachment trial. And I thought about people like Mitch McConnell, who basically has said that there is no need for a trial and that he has made up his mind already. In a real trial he would be automatically removed from the jury. In a real trial there would be witnesses and evidence presented.

In the not so distant past, there were sham trials in which the crime was the killing of a black man by white men. The jury took the oath, but it was a foregone conclusion that the accused would be acquitted. The jury was predisposed to acquit. The truth did not matter.


It is too bad we can’t have a jury in the case of the impeachment trial in which evidence would be presented and the jurors have not already made up their mind as to innocence or guilt of the accused.

It is too bad we can’t have a change of venue.

Bob Kamsler