Sen. Kennedy: Constitution offers little guidance on impeachment

By David Cohen

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said Sunday the Senate is in relatively uncharted waters when it comes to conducting an impeachment trial.

“There are no rules here,” Kennedy told host Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Kennedy was responding to Tapper’s query about Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Tuesday comments about her concern about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statements about his intention to coordinate with the White House on the defense of President Donald Trump. Once House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sends the articles of impeachment to the Senate, the 100 senators are to serve as jurors in an impeachment trial presided over by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Citing the limited guidance provided by the Constitution and the relative paucity of precedent, Kennedy said: "I think Sen. McConnell is entitled to his opinion and his approach. So is Sen. Murkowski,” adding in Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) for good measure.

In Article 1, Section 3, the Constitution specifies: “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.“

“It's not a criminal trial,“ Kennedy said. “The Senate is not really a jury. It's both jury and judge. The chief justice is not the judge. He's the presiding officer. There are no standards of proof. There are no rules of evidence.“

For his part, Kennedy said he hopes for “a level playing field,” particularly because he does not consider the way the House approached the case to be fair.

“I would start by giving each side a good amount of time to present their case,“ he said in outlining his ideas for what he would consider a reasonable process, which also includes the possibility of written questions.

“When the American people walk away from the Senate trial, if we ever have one, I don't want them saying, 'Well, we were just run over by the same truck twice,'” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said he expects the president to continue to reject allowing certain White House witnesses to testify.

"I fully expect the president to do two things: Claim executive privilege, which is his right. And No. 2, demand his own list of witnesses."