Republican Senators on Impeachment — Clinton’s That Is

10 mins read
Lindsey Graham on impeachment

Back in 1998, President Bill Clinton faced a Senate trial based on the wide-ranging Kenneth Starr report and two Articles of Impeachment. Article 1 stated that Clinton had “provided perjurious, false and misleading testimony” about his relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky and Article 2 claimed that he had obstructed justice. 

Twelve of the Republican senators who have been sworn in as Donald Trump’s jury also weighed in on Clinton’s guilt, as a member of the House or Senate. Eleven of these senators found Clinton guilty on both charges; Susan Collins was the sole exception. 

At the time, the senators justified their call for Clinton’s conviction in terms that elevated the ideals of our nation. The leader of the United States must be a person of honor and integrity, one held to the highest standards and faithful to his oath, they said. In a nation of laws, even the president can’t be placed above the law. Or even: Truth wins out. 

Now, however, these 11 men sing a different tune, one in sync with the bloc of 45 GOP senators voting against even holding the impeachment trial. They have agreed with Rand Paul’s claims that putting a former president on trial in the Senate is unconstitutional. Almost to a man they look to the Constitution and find no specific words on its pages that warrant holding former federal officeholders accountable within their recently defiled chamber. 

As Jerry Moran explained to the Kansas City Star, “The Constitution is where I go to find answers. Unfortunately, the Constitution does not clearly answer whether a former president can be impeached.” In such circumstances, we might hope that Mr. Moran would turn to the more than 170 legal scholars — including a co-founder of the conservative Federalist Society — who have co-signed a letter saying, Yes, there is a constitutional basis for putting a former federal official on trial in the Senate.

And Charles Grassley seems drawn to mumbo jumbo reminiscent of Clinton himself: “It’s one thing, according to the Constitution, to impeach a president, but can you impeach a citizen? Because now it’s not President Trump, it’s citizen Trump.” If we can’t impeach a president, what can we do? Maybe we should ask New York Attorney General Tish James

But never forget that it was Sen. Mitch McConnell who refused to schedule the trial until Trump had left office, removed by the results of a free and fair election. The cynical-minded among us may wonder if the Republicans’ flimsy constitutional arguments were behind this delay. Writing in Slate, Dahlia Lithwick deftly points out the verbal jujitsu that turned the legality of impeachment into a process argument rather than the man-almost-got-us-killed argument.

Frankly, it could almost be considered churlish to pile on the Republicans for this open celebration of hypocrisy. This is just their MO. We can cast our minds back and ponder Republicans’ stances on presidents nominating Supreme Court justices in an election year — or an election month. Or we can furrow our brows and try to recall a mere month ago when McConnell first spoke after the January 6 attacks on the Capitol. Back then, he declared that Trump had “fed lies” to the insurgents and “provoked” them. Soon after he let leak to the media that he was open to convicting Trump. Then two weeks later he voted in lockstep with Paul’s effort to throw the case out. And despite this wavering timeline, McConnell claims he really, really is going to “listen to the evidence.” 

Only one of this merry bunch, Rob Portman, has even vowed to “keep an open mind” when it comes to Trump’s second trial, but he points out that the Constitution still weighs heavily on him. “I’ve been very clear that former President Trump bears some responsibility for what happened on January 6 through his words and actions,” Portman said after the Paul vote. “I will listen as a juror, … and then make a judgment based on the Constitution and what I believe is in the best interests of the country.” So we are supposed to believe that Portman would actually vote in the Senate trial to find Trump guilty even though he already voted that the Constitution says Trump can’t be tried in the Senate?

There seems to be no moral thread for the Republicans to follow during the Trump era. More likely, that thread was grabbed by insurrectionists who stuffed it in their pockets in hopes of using it to string up VP Pence and Speaker Pelosi. Without such a thread, we can only hope that for the good of this nation, these Republicans become irrevocably lost in the wilderness.

Below is a more complete listing of the Republican senators who sat in judgment of Clinton and what they said. You can share your displeasure with the actions of this group of senators — and their eagerly distasteful colleagues — by using our link for easy-to-share social platform posts

Richard Burr, North Carolina: “The United States is a nation of laws, not men. And I do not believe we can ignore the facts or disregard the constitution so that the president can be placed above the law.”

Rob Portman, Ohio: “I believe the long-term consequence to this country of not acting on these serious charges before us far outweigh the consequences of following what the Constitution provides for and bring this matter to trial in the United States Senate.”

Jerry Moran, Kansas: “I choose to be on the side that says no person is above the law; that this is a nation of laws, not men; that telling the truth matters; and that we should expect our public officials to conduct themselves in compliance with the highest ethical standards.”

Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma: “I think we have seen the truth. And I think the final truth is that this president should be held to the very highest of standards.” 

Chuck Grassley, Iowa: “His misdeeds have caused many to mistrust elected officials. Cynicism is swelling among the grassroots. His breach of trust has eroded the public’s faith in the office of the presidency. … But once you lose your moral authority to lead, you are a failure as a leader.” 

Roy Blunt, Missouri: “No president can be allowed to subvert the judiciary or thwart the investigative responsibility of the legislature. … Violating these oaths or causing others to impede the investigation into such acts are serious matters that meet the standard for impeachment.” 

Lindsey Graham, South Carolina: “Impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.”

Mike Crapo, Idaho: “All Americans must abide by the rule of law, including the president of the United States, who is the highest official in the land and who has the additional duty to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed.”

Mitch McConnell, Kentucky: “Will we pursue the search for truth or will we dodge, weave, and evade the truth?”

Roger Wicker, Mississippi: “The rule of law is more important than the tenure in office of any elected official.”

John Thune, South Dakota: “Either he has a reckless contempt for the truth, or he can’t discern the truth from lies. In either case, that’s a miserable commentary on the elected leader of the free world.” 

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Rena Korb is a professional writer and editor. Her publications span from children’s books to political commentary. She volunteers as a DemCast California captain and as a leader with her local Indivisible chapter. She also is a lifelong activist, attending her first protest when she was 16. She lives in San Mateo with her family and, in non-pandemic times, enjoys playing Ultimate frisbee.

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