If President Donald Trump hopes a Senate impeachment trial will exonerate him, that kind of outcome won’t come about if the trial is fixed from the get-go.
That’s the warning that Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) is giving to the administration.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Van Hollen expressed skepticism about the Senate trial, in light of recent comments suggesting that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was working alongside White House counsel to deliver a verdict that would benefit the president politically.
“Is Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, going to try to rig this trial, working in lockstep with the president and his lawyers? Or is he going to allow a fair trial?” Van Hollen said.
Trump’s desired outcome — an acquittal from the Senate — won’t be achieved in the court of public opinion if the Senate trial isn’t fair, Van Hollen added.
“We keep hearing President Trump say he’s going to be exonerated. Look, if you have a rigged trial there’s no exoneration in acquittal,” Van Hollen said.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen: "Is (McConnell) going to try to rig this trial … working in lockstep with the president?"
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) December 29, 2019
That commentary from Van Hollen came just a few days after Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska expressed her skepticism over McConnell’s comments earlier this month, signaling clouds of doubt from within the majority leader’s own part.
During a Fox News interview, McConnell admitted he was “coordinating with White House Counsel” ahead of the Senate trial. “There will be no difference between the President’s position and our position as to how to handle this,” McConnell added.
Those statements alarmed Murkowski.
“When I heard that I was disturbed,” she said last week. “To me, it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense, and so I heard what leader McConnell had said, I happened to think that that has further confused the process.”
The House of Representatives formally voted to impeach Trump on December 18. However, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has not transferred articles of impeachment for the Senate to consider yet, delaying the process in order to pressure other wayward Republicans to consider voting in favor of rules that will be more agreeable to Democrats’ demands — including hearing from witnesses the White House had blocked prior to the impending trial.