If it’s a trial, shouldn’t it be conducted like a trial?
I’ve learned, like many people who are interested in the potential impeachment of Donald Trump, that impeachment, although a political process, is handled like a legal procedure: The House of Representatives gathers the evidence, summoning witnesses and taking depositions, to determine if the case should go to trial. This part is the actual impeachment and is decided by a simple majority vote in the House.
If the House votes for impeachment, the process moves to a trial in the Senate. This is conducted like an actual trial, with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court serving as judge and the 100 senators serving as the jury. Unlike an actual criminal trial, a unanimous decision is not required for conviction, or, in this case removal from office, but by a 2/3 vote or 67 senators.
I’m not one of the 1.3 million lawyers(!) in the U.S., but I’ve watched enough TV legal dramas to know something about how jury trials are supposed to work. And that one of the most critical aspects of a jury trial is the jury selection itself.
In a process called voir dire, prospective jurors are questioned about their backgrounds and potential biases before being chosen to sit on a jury. You’ve all seen voir dire in action on TV and in movies. There’s the peremptory challenge where attorneys reject jurors without stating a reason. And there’s the challenge for cause where a juror might be rejected if the challenging attorney provides a good reason why they might be unable to reach a fair verdict. In this latter scenario, the challenge is considered by the presiding judge who may deny it.
Given that, I found it interesting that Senate Majority Leader Mitch “Moscow Mitch” McConnell said yesterday that if the impeachment trial were held today, the Senate would acquit President Donald Trump.
“I will say I’m pretty sure how it’s likely to end,” McConnell said to reporters. “If it were today, I don’t think there’s any question — it would not lead to removal.”
So that leads to the obvious question: If the Senate trial is really a trial, wouldn’t McConnell be challenged for cause as he’s actually gone on the record, publicly, that he is sure how the trial will end…in an acquittal. Doesn’t that sound like a juror who “is unable to reach a fair verdict?” And if the argument is, well what he “thinks” is not necessarily how he will “vote,” McConnell (and probably almost all the Republican “jurors” who’ve made public statements regarding the “sham” impeachment – are you listening Lindsey Graham?) should be subject to preemptory challenges.
Wait, what? A Senate impeachment trial only requires a quorum for a vote? And that a quorum is 50+1 or 51 senators? And 2/3 of 51 is 34?.
Let the challenges begin!