USA TODAY International Edition
Cruz, Hawley play at being jurors
Convicting Trump would convict them
Imagine sitting in a courtroom awaiting a trial of a man arrested for assaulting your mother. It was a robbery gone wrong — he merely tried to spook her into giving him some money, but in the process, he became enraged and knocked her over, breaking her hip. The judge lets the jurors into the room and as they settle in, you see a familiar face. The driver of the getaway car is on the jury! He gives the defendant a thumbs- up and you realize the fix is in.
The impeachment of a U. S. president isn’t strictly a legal procedure — it is primarily a political one. But when the Senate trial of former President Donald Trump began Tuesday, his coconspirators are actually sitting in judgment of his actions. And the fix is in — for some senators, to find Trump guilty will be to convict themselves.
For weeks after the election, Republican U. S. senators such as Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas buttressed Trump’s dangerous lie that the November election had been stolen from him via massive voter fraud.
Even after Trump and his allies had lost over 60 straight court cases, Hawley, Cruz and others promoted the cockamamie theory that by objecting to the Electoral College results in the Senate, the vice president could somehow reverse the election and grant Trump the victory he very clearly had not won.
On Dec. 30, Hawley announced that he’d object to affirming the results, fueling the lies about voter fraud. “Millions of voters concerned about election integrity deserve to be heard,” Hawley wrote, adding, “Somebody has to stand up.”
A few days later, Cruz said he and 10 other senators would “reject the electors from disputed states,” calling instead for a 10- day audit of the results.
Both men sent fundraising letters boasting of their efforts. It was these lies, coupled with Trump’s weeks of goading, that landed thousands of violent extremists at the U. S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when they then charged the building and left five dead. Before the “Stop the Steal” crowd attacked the Capitol, Hawley famously saluted them with a raised fist.
Yet even after the bloodshed of that afternoon, Hawley, Cruz and a handful of other senators continued their charade and voted that night to object the election results.
Now, with Trump on trial, it will be Hawley, Cruz and others who spent weeks telling delusional MAGA enthusiasts that the election had been stolen who will be sitting in judgment of Trump. In any normal jury selection process, they’d not only be struck from the jury, they’d also be given a one- way plane ticket to Peru to keep them as far away as possible from the trial.
At the constitutional convention in 1787, the nation’s Founding Fathers wrestled with how to structure impeachment so it wasn’t merely a tool used by opposition parties to remove a president they don’t like. But the structure they implemented ( impeachment by the House of Representatives, conviction by two- thirds of the Senate) didn’t consider that it could be too difficult to impeach a president for obvious crimes against the United States if a significant portion of the Senate was actually driving the getaway car.
Essentially, the president’s sycophants are being asked to declare his actions a crime, which would immediately make them accessories to that crime. It would be like a defendant trying to get out of a bribery charge by handing the judge a bag full of money.
Further, the history books will never see another more blatant example of juror intimidation than this “trial.” Senators who vote to convict Trump can almost guarantee themselves primary election opposition, most likely led by the impeached president himself. For those who think they’re presidential timbre in 2024, crossing Trump at this point will effectively be dropping out of the race.
There is a Latin phrase — “nemo iudex in causa sua” — that has been a foundational legal principle for centuries. It directs that “no one is judge in his own cause.”
Similarly, in the case of the sham Trump impeachment trial in the U. S. Senate, no one should be a juror in their own cause, either.