IMPORTANT: MAKE SURE YOU READ THE UPDATE AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE. THIS ARTICLE'S CLAIM THAT THE HOUSE CAN IMPEACH A SENATOR IS OPEN TO QUESTION
Imagine you are in a medieval castle. The drawbridge is down and the enemy's army is approaching. They've got torches. They've got swords. They've got halberds and battle axes and spears. They are coming to kill you and the drawbridge is down. Fortunately, an alert soldier realizes the bridge is down and is about to raise it when one of your king's knights charges at him and pierces him with his lance. Another soldier tries to raise it and the knight attacks him as well. More and more soldiers try to raise it in defense of the castle, but whoever so tries is killed by the knight who is determined to sabotage the castle's defense. You would call that knight a traitor, wouldn't you?
During his Congressional testimony, Robert Mueller said that the Russian assault on our electoral system was "among the most serious challenges" to American democracy he has ever seen. He warned that they will interfere with the 2020 elections, that "they are doing it as we sit here" and that "many more countries are developing capability to replicate what the Russians have done". He called for further legislation to ward off this threat to our democracy, but when it comes to Mitch McConnell, Mueller's testimony fell on deaf ears. Within two days of Mueller's testimony, McConnell blocked two key pieces of legislation that would help safeguard our elections. The first would have required Presidential campaigns to report offers of aid from agents of a foreign government to the FBI. Maybe we shouldn't be surprised that McConnell blocked this bill. After all, Donald Trump told George Stephanopolis that he would accept opposition research from foreign nationals and mocked the idea of calling the FBI if he was given such foreign assistance. In doing so, Trump made it clear he was open for business to accept help from the Russians in 2020. The second bill was a bipartisan one that would have set aside $600 million for election security to the states and would have required backup paper ballots. To both of these, #MoscowMitch said, "no".
Dana Milbank's must-read Washington Post column entitled, "Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset" spells out other election security bills that McConnell has blocked:
A bipartisan bill requiring Facebook, Google and other Internet companies to disclose purchasers of political ads, to identify foreign influence.
A bipartisan bill to ease cooperation between state election officials and federal intelligence agencies.
A bipartisan bill imposing sanctions on any entity that attacks a U.S. election.
A bipartisan bill with severe new sanctions on Russia for its cybercrimes.
McConnell has prevented them all from being considered — over and over again. This is the same McConnell who, in the summer of 2016, when briefed by the CIA along with other congressional leaders on Russia’s electoral attacks, questioned the validity of the intelligence and forced a watering down of a warning letter to state officials about the threat, omitting any mention of Russia.
How to Ditch Mitch
It should be clear by now that Mitch McConnell is the modern-day equivalent of the traitorous knight who stopped soldiers from protecting the castle from the invading army by raising the drawbridge. Mitch McConnell, along with Donald Trump, is an existential threat to American democracy. We must get rid of him to ensure our democracy survives.
In a perfect world where Republicans put our country's welfare over the welfare of their party, Mitch McConnell would be expelled from Congress. However, we do not live in that world. Is there any other way to ditch Mitch? Maybe, but it is far from certain, and that is impeachment. It is clear we can impeach a President or a Vice President or a member of the President's cabinet, but can we impeach a Senator? Article II Section 4 of the Constitution states:
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
The Constitution doesn't say whether a Senator should be considered a civil officer for the purpose of impeachment. But impeaching a Senator would not be unprecedented. The House impeached Senator William Blount in 1797 and referred its impeachment to the Senate for conviction. Once it hit the Senate, things got complicated. The Senate expelled Blount on July 10, 1797. Then, according to the Senate's web site
Despite Blount's absence, his impeachment trial began in the Senate on December 17, 1798, and quickly focused on the Senate's right to try an expelled senator. In a narrow vote, the Senate defeated a resolution that asserted William Blount was an impeachable officer. In this vote, the Senate failed to make clear whether its decision stemmed from a belief that no senator could be impeached or from the belief that someone who ceased to hold a "civil office" also ceased to be impeachable.
There is enough historical precedent to impeach McConnell in the House, but whether the impeachment of a Senator would be ruled unconstitutional if challenged in court is unclear. That doesn't matter. Nancy Pelosi should still start impeachment hearings in the House, and she should try to get bipartisan support. And maybe she will get it. After all, election security should be a bipartisan issue. Several of the bills that McConnell stopped did have bipartisan backing. And foreign governments could just as easily step in to help Democrats as they do Republicans. If Republicans do not rise up against McConnell's obstructionism then they will not have a leg to stand on if China or Iran helps a Democratic candidate become president.
Impeaching McConnell should be quick and easy in the House even if Republicans don't join in. It will be MUCH more difficult to get 2/3 of the Republican controlled Senate to convict. But while conviction is one possible outcome, it is not necessarily the goal. Before referring the impeachment to the Senate, Speaker Pelosi should issue a statement saying that she will stay her hand from sending the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate if Senate Republicans remove McConnell from Majority Leadership and replace him with someone else who will work in good faith on voter security legislation. Pelosi's hand will be VERY strong if she has has House Republicans joining her in a bipartisan vote for impeachment. But the Democratic Party will enter the 2020 elections stronger than it would have otherwise if Republicans refuse. And the more Republicans resist her impeachment efforts--whether they be in the House or the Senate--the stronger the Democrats' position becomes. If the Republicans refuse to remove McConnell from leadership--if they throw their support towards the knight who refuses to let anyone raise the drawbridge, then the Democrats can rightfully paint the GOP as a threat to our democracy and as the Party of Treason.
“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.
For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men.
He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague.”
~Marcus Tullius Cicero, 63 BC in The Orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero
Whether or not it was Cicero who actually said this has been questioned. This quote appeared in a novel "A Pillar of Iron" by Taylor Caldwell, but whether she quoted Cicero directly or merely paraphrased Cicero, or just made it up and attributed it to him, I can't say. But whoever came up with this was brilliant and I just HAD to repost the quote here.
Update 9/11/19: The very basis of this article may be wrong. Thanks to Nick Rafter who challenged me on Twitter, I reviewed the Senate's page discussing the expulsion of William Blount from the Senate. Technically, the House did not impeach Blount, but it did determine that Blount was an impeachable official and told the Senate that they would be referring an article of impeachment. The Senate expelled Blount and held a trial to impeach him. They voted that he wasn't an impeachable officer. However, the Senate didn't clarify WHY he was unimpeachable. Did they conclude that NO Senator was impeachable, or did they conclude that only Blount wasn't impeachable since he had already been expelled?
Rafter cited the constitution to try to convince me that the House could not impeach a Senator and I countered that the passage cited was not determinative.
This passage is not determinative. It says what each house MAY do. It does not say what it may not do. There is no prohibition in the language of the Constitution itself preventing the House from impeaching the Senate. /1
— Robin Messing (@RobinSMessing) September 11, 2019
Rafter then pointed out that both the House and the Senate soon voted for resolutions that appeared to clarify the issue. The Senate voted for a resolution stating that only the Senate could discipline Senators and the House voted for a resolution saying that only the House could punish House members.
And then the Senate decided the very next year, during the 5th Congress, that only they can Constitutionally remove a member of their own body. Is in the Senate journal.
— Nick Rafter (@NRafter) September 11, 2019
There's nothing that's unclear. The Senate decided over 200 years that only they can punish a member of its own body. The House did the same.
— Nick Rafter (@NRafter) September 11, 2019
I have not seen the resolutions that Nick is referring to. He says the Senate Journal from 1799 is not online. I will assume that he is describing the resolutions accurately since I have no reason to doubt him. Even so, the bottom line is that there is nothing in the Constitution that expressly forbids the House from impeaching a Senator, and any resolution passed by the House or Senate can be rescinded by the House or Senate. And as far as I know, the House is not legally bound by the Senate's resolution. I am not a lawyer, so take my analysis for what it is worth.