In an interview with CNN at the Doha Forum in Qatar, Lindsay Graham said "I am trying to give a pretty clear signal I have made up my mind. I'm not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here". In an interview with Fox News, senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said "Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with White House Counsel."

I'm still doing a lot of reading about what is involved in an impeachment trial (as I'm an Australian, and this is very interesting to me), but the main question I have is:

If someone in the senate says "I'm not going to bother looking at the evidence, I'm just going to vote against impeachment", or if someone else says "I'm working directly with the president to ensure we both get the outcome we want", is that illegal? Are there any repercussions for that?

If I were on trial and I said "I spoke with the jury beforehand to get the outcome we both want", I'd probably be in a lot of trouble. Likewise, if I were a juror and announced before the trial "I don't care about the evidence, I've decided they're already guilty / innocent", I'd also be in a lot of trouble.

Are there similar repercussions for members of the senate? Or is an impeachment trial completely different from your everyday trial?

  • In a real trial, accusations of non crimes would be thrown out before jury selection, so... not a real analogy.
    – curiousguy
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 19:22

1 Answer 1


Impeachment is unique in that it is a question of politics, not a question of law, that is being discussed at trial. The other exception is that the Senate, not the Supreme Court, is the High Court of Impeachment (that is, legal precedence is based on what the Senate says, not what the Supreme Court or any other appellant court says). There are a few minor details, but the main part of the trial will play out like a criminal trial, with the Managers (people named by the house to argue the case) taking the role of the Prosecution and the Senate as the Jury.

Because the trial is purely political in nature, a jurist decision to on the matter before evidence is presented at trial is entirely legal. It's actually perfectly legal to have your own opinion prior to trial start in a normal criminal jury and to vote on that ground... but the attorneys will dismiss you from the pool if they find even a hint of this. Unlike the judicial system, the jurists of Impeachment Trial are the same 100 people (presently) and cannot be dismissed for any reason, including comments about how they will find in the trial. Jury Fixing or tampering is when the decision a jurist makes is colored by some outside motivation to the jurists own convictions (i.e. the crime boss has your family and won't kill them if you find his hired goon innocent.). It could be an issue if a senator was given some pork to vote against his/her choice, but Impeachment is incredibly rare in the U.S. system and there hasn't been any case where this was an issue (If Articles of Impeachment are brought, this will be the 20 case to reach the trial stage since the adoption of the Constitution, and the 3rd for a President.).

  • 1
    I think that if a senator took a bribe to reach a particular decision, that might be prosecutable (or impeachable), but it wouldn't invalidate the result of the impeachment trial. Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 15:21
  • 2
    @MartinBonnersupportsMonica: Congress members cannot be impeached (this was actually the outcome of the very first impeachment) largely because the Constitution provides methods for both houses to deal with their own bad actors.
    – hszmv
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 15:33

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