Richard W. Painter, who served as the chief White House ethics lawyer in President George W. Bush’s administration, warned that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has acted in a “corrupt” manner and has “rigged” a potential Senate trial for President Donald Trump.
McConnell last Thursday told Fox News host Sean Hannity that he would be working closely with White House counsel in the increasingly likely event of a Senate trial following a vote of impeachment in the House of Representatives. “I’m going to take my cues from the president’s lawyers,” the Republican from Kentucky asserted.
As a result, many Democrats – and some conservatives – have criticized McConnell for openly announcing his intent to violate the oath he, along with other senators, will be required to take ahead of the trial. That oath explicitly states that the lawmakers “will do impartial justice according to the Constitution.”
“This is about the rule of law, not partisanship. I am an independent and am a critic of corrupt Democrats as well as Republicans here in Minnesota and elsewhere,” Painter, who is now a law professor at the University of Minnesota, tweeted on Monday morning. “For me the facts are clear: @senatemajldr has this impeachment trial rigged.”
In a previous Sunday evening tweet, the legal expert warned: “The conduct of @senatemajldr in this impeachment trial is corrupt and partisan beyond the pale. The GOP will not survive if this continues.” Painter asserted that “this is not about partisan politics,” noting that he has “taken on corrupt Democrats” in the past as well.
Newsweek has reached out to press representatives for McConnell, as well as to Painter, for further comment.
The House Judiciary Committee formally approved two articles of impeachment against Trump on Friday, one for “Abuse of Power” and the other for “Obstruction of Congress.” The president is accused of abusing his office by pressuring Ukraine to announce investigations into discredited claims that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden acted corruptly toward the Eastern European nation to benefit his son Hunter’s business dealings there, as well as into a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine and the Democrats, not Russia, worked to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Additionally, multiple current and former Trump administration officials testified that there was a “quid pro quo” involved in the pressure campaign. The president temporarily withheld nearly $400 million in military aid – which had bipartisan support from Congress – to Ukraine and also withheld a White House meeting with the Ukranian President Voldymyr Zelenskiy as part of his administration’s efforts to pressure the announcement of investigations, according to witnesses.
Throughout the inquiry, the White House consistently refused to comply with congressional subpoenas related to the impeachment probe, while also blocking witnesses from testifying. This led to the second article of impeachment, for “Obstruction of Congress,” as the House of Representatives is granted the “sole Power of Impeachment” by the Constitution.
Despite the charges, Republicans in the House and Senate have largely continued to defend the president. Trump has also consistently insisted that he has done nothing wrong, arguing that the entire inquiry was purely “partisan” and a “witch hunt.”
Thus far, the votes relating to the inquiry have passed strictly along party lines, with the exception of independent Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, who was elected as a Republican but declared his independence in July.