Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer took a hit in the liberal media Friday when CNN reported the New York Democrat argued repeatedly during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment in the late 1990s that the Senate wasn’t an impartial “jury box.”
Mr. Schumer has criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in recent days for describing himself as “not an impartial juror” in advance of President Trump’s impeachment trial.
“That is an astonishing admission of partisanship,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor of his Republican counterpart.
But Mr. Schumer campaigned for the Senate in 1998 on a pledge not to impeach or convict Mr. Clinton, CNN noted, and he gave several television interviews in 1998 and 1999 in which he described the Senate as “quite different from a jury” during impeachment trials.
“We have a pre-opinion,” Mr. Schumer said on “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 Mr. Clinton’s Senate 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.”
Mr. King asked him in the interview, “So therefore, anybody taking an oath tomorrow can have a pre-opinion; it’s not a jury box.”
“Many do,” Mr. Schumer replied. “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. 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.”
As a lame-duck member of the House Judiciary Committee in 1998, Mr. Schumer voted against Mr. Clinton’s impeachment. Then as a senator in 1999, he voted to acquit Mr. Clinton.
An unidentified Schumer spokesman told the network that Mr. Schumer “believed then and still believes now that all of the facts must be allowed to come out and then a decision can be made — in stark contrast to the Republicans today in both the House and Senate who have worked to prevent all the facts and evidence from coming out.”
The spokesman said Mr. Schumer’s comments came after the results of the Starr investigation into Mr. Clinton’s conduct.
Mr. Schumer has been working in lockstep with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to obtain what they call a “fair” trial of Mr. Trump in the Senate, including witnesses. Mrs. Pelosi has refused in the meantime to send to the Senate two articles of impeachment approved by the House on Dec. 18, raising accusations from the president and his Republican allies that Democrats are playing partisan games.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, urged Mr. Schumer on Friday to “stop playing games with the presidency.”
“What’s the difference between prosecution and persecution?” Mr. Graham tweeted.
He answered his own question: “When @SpeakerPelosi drives a highly partisan process devoid of due process denying the president his day in court and trampling on the constitutional separation of powers. When the Senate Minority Leader insists on denying President @realDonaldTrump the ability to go to court and exercise Executive Privilege regarding Senate Democrats’ witness lists.”
Mr. Graham told Mrs. Pelosi, “end this debacle and send the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate.”