Patrick Leahy's disgrace

The New York Times, February 10, has a "Trump on Trial" sidebar-type article, featuring Patrick Leahy, the four decades–plus Democrat senator from Vermont.  Leahy gets celebrity treatment from the Times because as Senate president pro tempore, he is presiding over the sham Senate impeachment trial of private citizen Donald J. Trump.  The senator has accepted his role as presiding officer at this unprecedented proceeding, as the longest serving senator of the majority party in the Senate.  The role came to him because Chief Justice John Roberts declined the part, as did Vice President Kamala Harris.

Actually, Vermont's senior senator should have refused the part as well, if traditional principles of fair play were to be observed.  As the Times article by Emily Cochrane points out, "Mr. Leahy is simultaneously a witness to the alleged high crime [inciting insurrection], a juror weighing the former president's fate and the judge presiding over the proceeding."  

Madison, in Federalist No. 47, quoted Montesquieu for the proposition that "the preservation of liberty requires that the three great departments of power should be separate and distinct."  This principle applies no less to separating the powers of judge from the powers of juror — but the senior Vermont senator is apparently untroubled by mingling powers that should be separate and defined.

Consider the 56-44 Senate vote to proceed with the Senate "trial" on the Trump impeachment.  One of those 56 votes to go ahead with this sham proceeding was cast by Presiding Officer Leahy.  Had he ruled that he could not both preside and cast votes in this proceeding, and opted to preside,  the trial would have been approved 55-44.

But what if the Unholy Six Republican senators had followed the Constitution and voted against the "trial"?  With Presiding Officer Leahy not voting, the trial would have been stopped in its tracks, 50-49.  Sanity, not ruthless partisan zealotry, would have ruled the day.  That Leahy is presiding officer and juror is a grievous wound to Anglo-American jurisprudence and sets a dreadful precedent to the concept of Justice with blindfold and evenly balanced scales.  We face a future where the idea of impartial justice follows the notion of impartial journalism into the memory hole.

Quite simply, Mitch McConnell, leader of Senate Republicans, should have demanded of Leahy that he verify his asserted fairness by giving up his vote as juror at the Trump impeachment "trial."  

The Cochrane article is deceptive as well as containing anti-Trump propaganda.  Cochrane reports Leahy's "ambition to help steer the [Senate} back toward the bipartisan comity of the past[.]"  What errant nonsense!  This so-called "bipartisan comity" reflected the willingness of weak-kneed Republicans to cave in to Democrat demands.  

Cochrane inserted in her piece  the usual anti-Trump propaganda, apparently obligatory at the Times, that in this "highly politicized trial ... Mr. Trump's false claims" that the Biden team "had stolen the election were likely to be a topic of debate."  At The New York Times, assertions of election irregularities are demeaned and dismissed as "baseless" or "false" claims, undeserving of evidentiary testing.

And in the Capitol, the presiding officer at this charade — at one moment, an impartial arbiter, the next moment, a fierce partisan.

Montesquieu weeps.

Image: Senator Patrick Leahy.