Oct 28, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Senators cry "juror" to avoid impeachment questions

Photos of Sens. Susan Collins and Chuck Schumer.

Sen. Susan Collins: Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images. Sen. Chuck Schumer: Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images.

As pressure grows on senators to take a stance on impeachment, both Republicans and Democrats have argued that their positions as potential jurors in the case against President Trump precludes them from commenting.

The big picture: Trial jurors in traditional criminal cases are not permitted to speak about a case outside of the courtroom. But while the Senate would technically be holding a "trial" against the president in the likely scenario that the House votes to impeach, the trial — which is a political proceeding — would not be held to the same standards as a criminal case.

What they're saying: The Washington Post's Robert Costa and Philip Rucker note that senators are increasingly abstaining from comment as more revelations emerge from the impeachment inquiry.

  • Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho): “I’m a juror and I’m comfortable not speaking."
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.): "I’d be a juror, so I have no comment."
  • Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.): “I don’t need a strategy for impeachment because I may be a juror someday."
  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine): "I am very likely to be a juror so to make a predetermined decision on whether or not to convict a president of the United States does not fulfill one’s constitutional responsibilities."

But, but, but: Republicans aren't alone. In an interview with Politico, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, "We're jurors," before adding: "We can push as hard as we can to get all the facts out but … we should wait until we see all the facts to make a determination."

  • “There are senators on both sides of the aisle who have said things that are highly partisan," said Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). "And have talked about this as a political endeavor rather than ... to approach it as our job which is a potential jurist."

Between the lines: Not everyone agrees with the argument that being a juror prevents senators from speaking out about Trump's alleged abuses.

  • “We’re not in a jury trial in the classic criminal sense. It is a political proceeding and we shirk our duty to the nation if we fail to talk," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said.
  • “I don’t think we should shirk our responsibilities as senators ... just because one day we might be a juror,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said.

Go deeper: How an impeachment inquiry works

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