The Impeachment Inquiry Is Shrouded in a Republican Vow of Silence

The Impeachment Inquiry Is Shrouded in a Republican Vow of Silence

Lynne H. Rambo

Politics, Americas

The senators cannot find it easy to speak approvingly of the president’s opportunistic conduct with foreign countries, so silence is probably the most graceful position for the Republican Party.

Several Republican senators have taken a “vow of silence” on the impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives.

Maine Senator Susan Collins has described her position this way: “I am very likely to be a juror so to make a predetermined decision on whether to convict a president of the United States does not fulfill one’s constitutional responsibilities.”

From a purely political standpoint, the senators’ choice is beneficial for both parties. The senators cannot find it easy to speak approvingly of the president’s opportunistic conduct with foreign countries, so silence is probably the most graceful position for the Republican Party.

The silence is also helpful from the Democratic Party’s perspective. Democrats would no doubt prefer that the senators just abandon Trump immediately, but that seems unlikely to happen. The silence at least preserves the possibility that they will convict Trump if and when the time comes.

That said, there is nothing requiring the senators to remain silent on the issues. No written law or rule instructs senators to take that approach. The Senate’s Rules on Impeachment Trials do not address pretrial conduct at all.

The senators’ choice seems to stem instead from a decision to treat the impeachment proceeding much like a judicial trial. As a professor of Constitutional law, I find that analogy quite apt.

Constitution Lays It Out

Under the Constitution, the House of Representatives is granted the exclusive power to impeach – or bring charges against – officers of the United States, including the president.

Once articles of impeachment (charges) are passed by the House, they are brought to the Senate for trial. Members of the House are named “managers” of the impeachment and are responsible for bringing forth evidence to support the charges.

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