The impeachment of the U.S. President has reached a critical phase in the U.S. Senate, at a time when concerns about the transparency and impartiality of a process called for to protect the credibility of democratic institutions are growing.
Above any consideration, Senators have a duty to honor the oath to protect, from any external or internal threat, the principles of the Constitution that support a system that separates government power into three branches.
The U.S. Senate is set to decide today, Friday, whether to admit key testimony. The vote comes after it emerged that former National Security Adviser John Bolton could confirm House accusations that the President abused his power by trying to restrict congressionally authorized economic aid to Ukraine for electoral reasons. Bolton is about to publish a book in which he would disclose details of how the U.S. President would have attempted to condition the release of funds to Ukraine on the country announcing an investigation into what Trump considered his main political opponent, former Vice President, Democrat Joe Biden, and his son.
The former adviser said he is willing to testify under oath before the Senate. The Senate Republican majority is trying to prevent that and they have not seemed willing to request the White House to allow Executive Branch agencies to provide Congress with documents required by the House. The alignment in the secrecy casts shadows on a fundamental process.
Signals from the U.S. Senate could undermine the President's trial process and affect the credibility of the Legislative Branch. Senators must overcome the increasingly persistent threat of giving in to partisanship which divides the nation and erodes the institutional transparency and trust that must prevail in the impeachment seeking to protect the credibility of democratic institutions.
However, from the very rules of the process established last week, the Senate broke the tradition of consensus by approving, in a partisan vote, the majority restrictive provisions. In the only two previous impeachment processes, Senate party delegations had agreed on preserving the confidence in the institutional framework as the beacon for those decisions.
In defining its rules, the Senate majority reserved the right to decide on the admission of witnesses until after the parties had presented their arguments. The Republican side is betting that it will succeed in preventing the trial from delving into the available evidence. With four Republican senators voting to hear testimony, citizens would have the opportunity to hear from key witnesses before judging whether the President's actions deserve his removal from office. If not, the process would end without the citizens having the opportunity to get to the bottom of the facts.
Since the beginning of the process in November, statements by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell himself had generated suspicion even among Republicans. The senator has previously expressed his sympathy with the President's defense, despite the fact that the Constitution imposes on the Senate a duty to serve as an impartial jury in these proceedings.
These instances further dramatize the polarization that permeates a process that must preserve, regardless of the verdict on the conduct attributed to Trump, the strength of the presidential institution. The institutional integrity of the Legislative Branch as an independent power capable of ensuring clear processes, as provided by the Constitution, will also depend on the decisions taken. The moment calls for reason and justice, based on documents and testimonies that citizens have the right to know, in the interest of democracy.