Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) was criticized in the media on Friday over his demand that the chamber conduct an “impartial” impeachment trial in the case of President Donald Trump because he did not seek that for President Bill Clinton.
In recent days, Schumer has been critical of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over describing himself as “not an impartial juror” ahead of an expected impeachment trial of the president.
“That is an astonishing admission of partisanship,” Schumer said on the floor of the chamber this week.
But in the late 1990s as he campaigned for the U.S. Senate ahead of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, Schumer pledged to vote against convicting him before the trial had even begun.
Schumer gave several television interviews in 1998 and 1999 in which he described the Senate as “quite different from a jury” during impeachment trials, the Washington Times reported.
“We have a pre-opinion,” Schumer told “Larry King Live” in January 1999, referring to himself and two newly elected Republican senators who had voted on impeachment as House members in 1998 and planned to vote in Clinton’s trial.
“This is not a criminal trial, but this is something that the Founding Fathers decided to put in a body that was susceptible to the whims of politics.”
King asked, “So therefore, anybody taking an oath tomorrow can have a pre-opinion; it’s not a jury box.”
“Many do,” Schumer responded.
“And then they change. In fact, it’s also not like a jury box in the sense that people will call us and lobby us,” Schumer added.
“You don’t have jurors called and lobbied and things like that. I mean, it’s quite different than a jury. And we’re also the judge.”
Republican senators have criticized Schumer for working hand in hand with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the president’s impeachment in which they have both called for a “fair” trial.
House Republicans have complained that they were largely frozen out of the impeachment inquiries by Democrats whom they say broke a number of pre-existing rules of procedure, including holding many witness inquiries in private.