CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — One day after swearing to provide a fair impeachment trial for President Donald Trump, Rhode Island Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse both expressed skepticism about the process.
Reed said Friday he wanted to stress to all parties that fairness and fidelity to the Constitution of the United States should, and can, be the primary duty for the Senate sitting as the jury.
This is not the first time Reed has been a part of a Senate impeachment trial. He is currently one of 15 Senate members still in office who participated in the impeachment process of former President Bill Clinton.
“The Senate has done this before,” he said. “We can, at our best moments, working together, rise to the level of constitutional fidelity and decency and respect for the law.”
Whitehouse, a former federal prosecutor, said blocking known evidence from the view of senators is “a novel aberration” in the history of American jurisprudence.
“Even now, we still do not know what that so-called trial will look like,” Whitehouse said. “We do not even know if it will meet the basic standards of what a trial is. Even now, [Senate Majority] Leader [Mitch] McConnell has not yet shown the resolution that will dictate the rules of the trial.”
Reed said Clinton’s impeachment trial unfolded much differently than Trump’s has so far.
“President Clinton himself was deposed under oath; that was available to us before we sat down,” Reed said of the January 1999 trial. “President Trump has completely refused to do that.”
Both Reed and Whitehouse agreed they are duty-bound to provide Trump with a fair trial.
“We have to make sure the Constitution is served, not any individual parochial interest,” Reed said.
Earlier in the morning, Trump hired Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz as part of his legal team.
Whitehouse compared Starr, who also investigated Clinton during his impeachment trial, to a character from a seminal historical novel by Victor Hugo.
“In ‘Les Misérables,’ there was an obsessed prosecutor, Inspector Javert. Ken Starr is the Inspector Javert, the Clinton-obsessed prosecutor, of that era,” Whitehouse explained. “It’s going to be really interesting to see if he can, with a straight face, criticize the House of Representatives for having been unfair to President Trump in the wake of his own record.”
The trial is set to begin in the Senate on Tuesday.