Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer attacked Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for a failure to be impartial in the impeachment of President Donald Trump — but he sang a very different tune just two decades earlier.
Just before Christmas, Schumer gave a speech on the Senate floor criticizing Senate Republicans and McConnell specifically, saying, “he has no intention of conducting a fair trial.”
To the Republican Senators:
Our message is a simple one.
Democrats want a fair trial that examines the relevant facts.
We want a fair trial.
But the message from Senator McConnell, at the moment, is that he has no intention of conducting a fair trial. pic.twitter.com/PMAtQaQjhi
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) December 19, 2019
“Let the American people hear it loud and clear, the Republican leader said, proudly, ‘I’m not an impartial juror. I’m not impartial about this at all.’ That is an astonishing admission of partisanship,” Schumer added. (RELATED: ‘Prosecutors Appear To Have Developed Cold Feet’: Mitch McConnell Jabs At House Democrats Over Impeachment Articles)
But in 1998, Schumer campaigned on a promised “no” vote in the inevitable impeachment trial of then-President Bill Clinton.
Additionally, according to a report from CNN’s KFILE, Schumer made several television appearances during which he acknowledged that senators were not really unbiased jurors.
In one such appearance, Schumer told Larry King that senators might even be “called and lobbied” in the days leading up to the final impeachment votes.
“We have a pre-opinion,” Schumer said, citing himself and two newly-elected Republican senators who had voted on impeachment in 1998 as members of the House of Representatives who said they would vote in the Senate. “This is not a criminal trial, but this is something that the Founding Fathers decided to put in a body that was susceptible to the whims of politics.”
“So therefore, anybody taking an oath tomorrow can have a pre-opinion; it’s not a jury box,” King asked Schumer.
“Many do,” Schumer responded. “And then they change. In fact, it’s also not like a jury box in the sense that people will call us and lobby us. You don’t have jurors called and lobbied and things like that. I mean, it’s quite different than a jury. And we’re also the judge.”
Schumer later told Tim Russert, then-host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” that the standard for senators in an impeachment trial was not the same as the standard for a juror in a criminal trial. “Every day, for instance, hundreds of people call us up and lobby us on one side and the other. You can’t do that with a juror,” he explained. “The standard is different. It’s supposed to be a little bit judicial and a little bit legislative-political. That’s how it’s been.”
In a presidential impeachment, the impeachers want senators to believe they are ‘jurors’ and must approach trial as if they were jurors in a criminal proceeding. That’s complete malarkey, of course. https://t.co/xoJGdDADhw
— Byron York (@ByronYork) December 27, 2019
York quoted former Chief Justice William Rehnquist as noting, during the Clinton impeachment trial, “the Senate is not simply a jury; it is a court in this case. Therefore, counsel should refrain from referring to the senators as jurors.”