In an interview this week, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg appeared to suggest that some Republican senators should be “disqualified” from their constitutional role in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump due to their prior expressions of support for acquittal.
The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump this week and, eventually, those articles should be transmitted to the Republican-controlled Senate for an impeachment trial, in which the president is expected to be acquitted.
A question of impartiality
Ginsburg’s remarks came during a wide-ranging interview with the BBC during which she explained, in terms of impeachment, “The House indicts, and the Senate tries.”
“Should a trier be impartial? Of course, that’s the job of a judge to be impartial,” she said in reference to all of the senators.
BBC journalist Riza Iqbal noted how “problematic” it was that some senators had already announced that their minds were made up prior to the start of an impeachment trial, and Ginsburg appeared to agree.
“Well, if a judge said that, a judge would be disqualified from sitting on the case,” Ginsburg said.
A moment later she added a “quote” from former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who she alleged to have said, “The day a judge stops being impartial, and starts to do things to please the home crowd — whatever your home crowd is — that’s the day that judge should step down from office.”
It goes both ways
Justice Ginsburg basically suggested that Republican senators who’ve already made their intentions to acquit President Trump known ahead of the trial have displayed that they are not “impartial” and should, therefore, be “disqualified” from serving as jurors in that trial.
But her logic cannot only be applied in one direction, and there are a number of Democrat senators — most notably the four currently running for president in opposition to Trump — who have similarly expressed their predetermined intent to convict.
If Ginsburg’s logic is carried through, there likely wouldn’t be any senators on either side of the political divide who could serve as an impartial juror in this case, which makes her commentary — and the left’s heralding of it — all the more ridiculous and inapplicable to this unique circumstance.
Impeachment is political
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reminded reporters this week that impeachment is a political process, not a judicial one:
I’m not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There’s not anything judicial about it. The House made a partisan political decision to impeach. I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I’m not impartial about this at all.