After the dust cleared on Senate Republicans' nullification of impeachment punishment, then Trump took a victory lap and set about terminating federal employees who testified per mandatory, legally-enforceable congressional subpoenas.

These witnesses followed the law by testifying in the impeachment trial rather than obeying Trump's blanket order for them to refuse to testify. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell got the derisive title "Moscow Mitch" for shady dealings with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska (who is under U.S. sanctions) who built an aluminum plant in McConnell's home state of Kentucky. McConnell weaponized the impeachment punishment proceedings, by gaming a unison vote against impeachment sanctions.

In courts, by analogy, every juror hears evidence and makes an independent determination of the accused's guilt or innocence. We have the safeguard of numbers in order to achieve an outcome that does justice. That independent thinking and evaluation process was short-circuited by Mitch McConnell who told senators to vote for no punishment for the president. Let that sink in. He told the senators how to vote, and all but one (Mitt Romney) obeyed. Do we want a justice system that is overpowered by one person telling everyone how to vote?

To be fair, occasionally a judge will direct a jury to render a "verdict N.O.V." when there is a missing element of the case when it would be legally impossible to win. In such instances the judge will instruct the jury to find for the defendant, and it is a nonsuit. Verdict N.O.V. does not apply in the president's impeachment.

The elements of two overarching types of crimes were established in the House, and the House actually voted to impeach... which is tantamount to indictment in a court of law. Here's the bottom line: The role of the Senate was to set punishment, not to try anew what had been done by the House already. So guilt or innocence is not actually at play. The Senate's role is in setting punishment, and there are various levels of severity of punishment that can be decided. They can remove, they can censure, or they can set any punishment.

Mitch McConnell can not simply enforce any opinion he might assert about factfinding, about anyone regardless of whether Republican or Democrat. It was not his place to dictate an outcome. This stirred up historians and constitutionalists because since nationhood, this is the first time congressional leadership has directed an outcome for purely partisan reasons. In the past, each senator was able to vote his conscience based on the facts, and did so not by simply affiliating his vote to a party with a single "decider."

So many things about this president have changed the world. The founders expected a level of good faith. No Congress throughout the years has safeguarded by passing laws to protect America against bad faith overextension or overreaching of presidential power through an arcane interpretation of the executive privilege claim; the sanction (or not) of a president's interference with foreign policy funding; the invitation of foreign election interference; violation of the emoluments clause; not divesting conflicts of interest. We were vulnerable. No Congress has made a fiduciary restriction on receiving federal funding as a contractor. We were vulnerable. No Congress has defined presidential nepotism punishment. We were vulnerable. And we still are vulnerable.

If Congress is not prepared to enforce any consequences for these violations, we have not seen the end of such conflicts. If not resolved by November, we can never fix this, and should elect new senators who will consider the good of the country.

Kathy Tibbits is a Cherokee citizen, attorney, and artist. living at Lake Tenkiller.

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