Watchdog group requests ethics probe into McConnell over impeachment remarks

A watchdog group is asking the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill No signs of breakthrough for stalemated coronavirus talks State aid emerges as major hurdle to reviving COVID-19 talks MORE (R-Ky.) over his pledge to not be impartial during the upcoming impeachment trial. 

Public Citizen filed a complaint with the committee on Monday questioning if the GOP leader has violated both the U.S. Constitution and the Senate’s rules.

“The public declarations by Senator McConnell that his role in the impeachment process is to coordinate with the White House and thereby make a mockery of the trial directly contradict his oath of impartiality,” Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, said in a statement. 

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McConnell has come under criticism for his public statements about coordinating with the White House on impeachment trial strategy. He also told reporters during a press conference that he is not an "impartial juror" in the upcoming trial. 

The outside group, in its letter to the Ethics Committee, argued that McConnell's comments are "contrary to this oath of impartiality." 

"McConnell’s comment appears to directly contradict the Senate rules oath – not because he recognizes that impeachment is a political process or because he enters the process believing President TrumpDonald John TrumpTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill FDA head pledges 'we will not cut corners' on coronavirus vaccine Let our values drive COVID-19 liability protection MORE should be acquitted, but by his direct statement that he will not be impartial," the letter reads. 

The group is asking the Ethics Committee to investigate if McConnell violated either the Constitution or the Senate rules “and, if that is found to be the case, take appropriate remedial actions through recusal from the impeachment proceedings.”

Monday's letter comes as the House is poised to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate this week, kicking off the trial after a weeks-long delay over the rules.

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GOP senators have defended the Republican leader, noting that Democrats have criticized McConnell for his comments on coordinating with the White House even as Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerTo save the Postal Service, bring it online White House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders Schumer declines to say whether Trump executive orders are legal: They don't 'do the job' MORE (D-N.Y.) has been in regular contact with House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill No signs of breakthrough for stalemated coronavirus talks Governors air frustrations with Trump on unemployment plans MORE (D-Calif.) about the strategy for Democrats. 

Schumer previously told MSNBC's Rachel MaddowRachel Anne MaddowHere are top contenders to be Biden's VP Juan Williams: We must not become numb to Trump's abnormality Mary Trump claims she's heard Trump use racist, anti-Semitic slurs: He's 'virulently racist' MORE that he and Pelosi were "talking to each other" about impeachment strategy, though he declined to characterize their conversations as "coordinating." 

Schumer also pledged, during his 1998 Senate campaign, that he would vote to acquit then-President Clinton if he won. Schumer was both a member of the House during its impeachment inquiry and a member of the Senate during the impeachment trial. 

"This is not a criminal trial, but this is something the Founding Fathers decided to put in a body that was susceptible to the whims of politics," he told CNN's Larry King in 1999 about his decision to take part in the trial.

Republicans have also been quick to point out that some Democratic senators have said that Trump should be removed from office, and several senators running for the Democratic presidential nomination would stand to benefit if Trump was convicted and removed from office.

During an interview with "Fox & Friends” last month, the GOP leader knocked the idea that Schumer, or Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Health Care: Nearly 100,000 children tested positive for coronavirus over two weeks last month | Democrats deny outreach to Trump since talks collapsed | California public health chief quits suddenly On The Money: Administration defends Trump executive orders | CBO reports skyrocketing deficit | Government pauses Kodak loan pending review Harris favored as Biden edges closer to VP pick MORE (D-Mass.) or Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Campaign Report: LIVE: Trump from Gettysburg | The many unknowns of 2020 | Omar among those facing primary challenges Trump's personality is as much a problem as his performance Sierra Club endorses Biden for president  MORE (I-Vt.) would act as impartial judges during the president's Senate trial.

"Do you think Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerTo save the Postal Service, bring it online White House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders Schumer declines to say whether Trump executive orders are legal: They don't 'do the job' MORE is impartial? Do you think Elizabeth Warren is impartial? Bernie Sanders is impartial? So let's quit the charade. This is a political exercise. ... All I'm asking of Schumer is that we treat Trump the same way we treated [President] Clinton," McConnell said at the time.