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 McConnellCNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment Impeachment throws curveball in Iowa to sidelined senators 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 says his advice to impeachment defense team is 'just be honest' Trump expands tariffs on steel and aluminum imports CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerVeronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democrats turn to obstruction charge Liberal super PAC to run digital ads slamming Trump over Medicare comments MORE (D-N.Y.) has been in regular contact with House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Social Security emerges as flash point in Biden-Sanders fight | Dems urge Supreme Court to save consumer agency | Trump to sign USMCA next week Veronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address MORE (D-Calif.) about the strategy for Democrats. 

Schumer previously told MSNBC's Rachel MaddowRachel Anne MaddowCitizens United put out a welcome mat for Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman Giuliani says he was 'misled' by Parnas Parnas attorney asks William Barr to recuse himself from investigation 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 Ann WarrenKlobuchar plans campaign rallies across Iowa despite impeachment trial Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Wyden asks NSA to investigate White House cybersecurity | Commerce withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon objects | Warren calls on Brazil to drop Greenwald charges Warren pledges to release Trump records if elected MORE (D-Mass.) or Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders to Clinton: 'This is not the kind of rhetoric that we need' Conservative reporter on Sanders: He's not a 'yes man' Human Rights Campaign president rips Sanders's embrace of Rogan endorsement MORE (I-Vt.) would act as impartial judges during the president's Senate trial.

"Do you think Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerVeronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democrats turn to obstruction charge Liberal super PAC to run digital ads slamming Trump over Medicare comments 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.