Harvard Law Professor Warns Mitch McConnell's Impeachment Strategy Could Backfire

Laurence Tribe called the Senate majority leader's planned defense of Donald Trump "disgusting."

Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe explained Friday why he believes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) plan to coordinate with President Donald Trump’s defense team in a Senate impeachment trial may backfire.

McConnell told Fox NewsSean Hannity on Thursday that there was “no chance” that Trump would be removed from office over the Ukraine scandal and vowed “total coordination” with the White House during proceedings.

Tribe told MSNBC’s Ari Melber the next day on “The Beat” that it was “disgusting” that McConnell looked like he “is going to conduct this trial as though he’s a member of the defense team.”

“You know, it’s an ancient principle — centuries-old, actually over a millennium old — that you can’t be a judge on your own case, and effectively, to allow Donald Trump to call the shots violates that principle,” said the scholar, who has been advising top House Democrats on the impeachment process.

Tribe continued:

The reason it may backfire is that an exoneration, if that’s what emerges by a Senate that is essentially rigged and fixed so that it’s coordinated in this way with the defense, really doesn’t clear the name of the accused so that the president will go down in history as having been essentially found guilty by the House in a proceeding where he had a chance to defend himself but didn’t take advantage of it, and then in a kind of rubber-stamp sort of toss-off, not really given a meaningful trial so that he will have been adjudicated fundamentally by the House of Representatives to have abused his office, abused his oath, and endangered the national security and then blockaded in the inquiry as though he were a dictator. 

“That’s not a very good record,” Tribe added. 

Melber suggested Trump and McConnell may actually end up tainting their public claim to an acquittal of the president by rigging the process in Trump’s favor. Tribe agreed. 

The House Judiciary Committee voted Friday to impeach Trump.

It sent two articles of impeachment, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, to the full Democratic-controlled House, which is set to vote before the holidays. A trial in the Senate, where Republicans have a 53-47 majority, is expected to take place in January.

Sixty-seven votes are required to convict a president. Trump’s 2020 GOP challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, claimed this week that up to six Republican senators now privately support removing Trump from office.