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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 McConnellFive things to know about Georgia's Senate runoffs Obama chief economist says Democrats should accept smaller coronavirus relief package if necessary Memo to Biden: Go big — use the moment to not only rebuild but to rebuild differently 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 TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report 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 SchumerThe five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Collins urges voters to turn out in Georgia runoffs Protect America's houses of worship in year-end appropriations package MORE (D-N.Y.) has been in regular contact with House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiObama chief economist says Democrats should accept smaller coronavirus relief package if necessary The five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? MORE (D-Calif.) about the strategy for Democrats. 

Schumer previously told MSNBC's Rachel MaddowRachel Anne MaddowQuarantined Maddow shares story of partner who is fighting COVID-19: 'Don't get this thing' The tribal journalism of cable news is at a crossroads MSNBC's Joy Reid: Close presidential race shows 'great amount of racism and anti blackness' in US 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 WarrenInequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE (D-Mass.) or Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden announces all-female White House communications team The 'diploma divide' in American politics Bernie Sanders should opt for a government-created vaccine from China or Russia MORE (I-Vt.) would act as impartial judges during the president's Senate trial.

"Do you think Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerThe five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Collins urges voters to turn out in Georgia runoffs Protect America's houses of worship in year-end appropriations package 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.