The process of impeaching and removing a United States president is often compared to a criminal trial, with the House of Representatives acting to indict a suspect, and the Senate acting as jurors in a trial of the indictment.

In that comparison then, if individual senators received threats from their party as to what could happen to their party prospects if they failed to vote according to party lines, would this constitute jury tampering?

3 Answers 3


Additionally, The senate is the only "Court" that can hear impeachment trials, so there is no appeals system to overturn the decision in such a matter (The Supreme court effectively washed their hands of any involvement in Impeachment in Nixon v. United States (no not that Nixon.).

Additionally, in U.S. Politics, the political parties have little in the way of recourse against legislatures who vote against the party line that can be legally done to the member who voted improperly (while I understand Westminister-style Parlimentry ministers can be reprimanded by the Party for voting the wrong way in some cases, I'm not up on the details). If a Senator breaks with the party line, it's under threat of the constituent's refusal to re-elect in the next election cycle and the Senate is not elected whole cloth at any one time (rather one third of the senate is always less than or two years away from their next election). So even discounting blow back by the constituents back home across the board, if all the senators not up for election are voting to Impeach, 2/3rds majority can still happen... but there are members in both parties who are more than two years out.

And voting a senator out because you do not like the way he or she voted in impeachment is perfectly legal as is the senator realizing he won't get elected again specifically based on his/her decision. In fact, this threat was part of the equation specifically to dissuade the majority from impeaching the President for the crime of being a member of the minority party... it had better be a damn good reason for impeaching and not political pettiness.

Also, as a final point out, no vote in Congress taken on the floor may be secret to the voters (jury deliberations are kept in secret and the foreman of the jury reads the decision of the vote, which is a secret ballot as far as the court is concerned (there are no rules about knowing who voted which way among the jurors however, and they are permitted to show how close the vote was once dismissed from the case at conclusion. The senate does deliberate the impeachment in secret, but the vote is in the public eye, so you will know who voted for and against).

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    I have heard threats of "facing a primary" as a party threat against a rebellious senator...
    – DJohnM
    Oct 21, 2019 at 16:03
  • @DJohnM: It's not as big of a threat as the constituents as primaries are usually only open to party members (I.E. all the registered voters who all democrats are allowed to vote for the democrat nominee and the same for the republicans) and you do have a few states with open primaries (a voter can vote for any party's primary, not just the party they belong too) and other states have other weirdness (Jungle Primaries, where it's an open primary and the best two candidates move to general so you could have two members of the same Party.)
    – hszmv
    Oct 21, 2019 at 17:15
  • @DJohnM: It is a "threat" but a very weak one for a party as the parties organization is supposed to be neutral with respect to primary candidates. Usually political action groups will back a primary challenger, not the party, for a primary meaning it's still ultimatley wrath of the voters. That said some states have one party dominance so the primary is usually the decision maker and the general is just a formality but upsets have been known to happen.
    – hszmv
    Oct 21, 2019 at 17:19
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    @hszmv "the parties organization is supposed to be neutral" is perhaps the ideal, but is exactly what the threat of a primary competitor is about. The party won't be neutral vis-a-vis the candidates in this primary: they will back someone else with money and endorsements against the poor wayward legislator who voted against the party line. This isn't even a violation of any election laws: the primary process is technically a closed internal matter to each party, which the parties graciously allow the unwashed masses to participate in with their silly little votes.
    – asgallant
    Oct 21, 2019 at 17:22
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    @hszmv - "the parties organization is supposed to be neutral with respect to primary candidates". Sadly, lawyers for at least one political party have argued in open court that they have no obligation to be impartial.
    – bta
    Oct 22, 2019 at 1:44

No. Several elements of the crimes defined at 18 USC 1503 and 1504 would be absent, not least of which is that the Senate isn't actually a jury but a legislative body that is only partly analogous to a jury.


Also impeachment is political procedure. So I am not sure that there could be any legal recourse besides the typical, you can't make threats at people.

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    Oct 23, 2019 at 1:53

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