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The Oath Senators Take Means Something; Most Republicans Are Ignoring It

June 21, 2020

By Joe Rothstein

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

That’s the oath newly elected members of the U.S. Senate swear to upon taking office. If the senator gets elected multiple times, he or she swears to it each time. The oath-taking ceremony is popular with members. Their families gather around them. Photos and video appear in media back home. But the ceremony is is not just a photo op. The law and Constitution require it.

Many of those now serving in the U.S. Senate, mostly all of the Republicans during the Trump presidency, have violated that oath and should be made to answer for it. If religious, they also will have to come to terms with what they swore to their god with their hand on a holy bible.

This is not a column about impeachment. That’s behind us. It’s not even a finding of guilt. The senators’ violations of oath are more basic than that. The Senate is responsible for policing threats to the Constitution and violations of the law. Failure to act is a violation itself.

Donald Trump’s lack of concern for the law and the Constitution are well documented. But his actions are possible only because Republican senators are either cheering him on or sitting as mute as the Minneapolis police officers who said and did nothing while watching George Floyd get murdered. Here are just a few of Trump’s actions that any senator with a sense of public responsibility would reasonably question:

Defiance of congressional subpoenas and congressional oversight.
This goes to heart of the Senate’s role as an equal branch of government. No law, no budget, no action by Congress matters if Congress loses the power to oversee how the executive branch is managing it.

Spending billions of dollars on a southern border wall not appropriated for that purpose.
The Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse. Trump is using a phony “emergency” declaration to thwart it. Why aren’t senators challenging it? If this is okay, the whole appropriations process is pointless.

Trump’s casual and dangerous idea of national intelligence.
He gave out security clearances to people his own security experts consider security risks. On more than one occasion, he’s publicly divulged security matters. He has little regard for intelligence briefings or the intelligence agencies themselves. Clearly a problem not to be dismissed as, “well, that’s just Trump being Trump.”

Trump has spent millions of taxpayer dollars fighting to keep his personal finances secret.
Only those with something to hide do that. Question for those in Congress: Why don’t you try it, too? And then run for reelection trying to explain why.

Congress worked hard to enact a treaty to control intermediate-range nuclear missiles. Two-thirds of the Senate approved it. Trump cancelled it with a stroke of his pen. The Supreme Court said it has no role here, that the remedy is with Congress.

That’s not the only treaty Trump has shredded. Where’s the Senate’s remedy? Where’s its outrage? Where’s even an expression of concern?

John Bolton may not have a large fan club among among Republican senators, but until recently Bolton was the national security advisor to the president. He's now reported that Trump tried to enlist China for his campaign team. Like Bolton or not, he's a credible source and he's accused Trump of the felony offense of trying to secure foreign involvement in a U.S. campaign. During impeachment, Republican senators decided they didn't want to hear evidence about Trump blackmailing Ukraine for political favors. Judging by their reaction to Bolton's book, Republicans have no interest in hearing anything about China, either.

These are just a few selections from a long highlight reel. We spend a lot of air time and ink dissecting Trump’s actions, and hardly any time considering the Senate’s inaction. One can’t succeed without the other. Yes, every now and then a Republican senator is “troubled” by something Trump’s done. But almost always they move in lockstep.

A failure to act when the law and the Constitution appear to be violated is a violation of a Senator’s oath. Wholesale failure is the crime of malfeasance in office. The Constitution provides a remedy for congressional malfeasance. It’s called an election.

The Republicans in the Senate are not just protecting Trump, they are condoning violations of the law and undermining the Constitution. That lockstep should continue, right out the door of the Senate in November, so that they will have no chance to violate their oaths again.

(Joe Rothstein’s political thrillers, “The Salvation Project” and “The Latina President,” are available from all on line book sellers and most independent book stores. Comments? Questions? Joe Rothstein can be contacted at

Joe Rothstein is a political strategist and media producer who worked in more than 200 campaigns for political office and political causes. He also has served as editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anchorage Daily News and adjunct professor at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management. He has a master's degree in journalism from UCLA. Mr. Rothstein is the author of award-winning political thrillers, "The Latina President and the Conspiracy to Destroy Her," and "The Salvation Project."