How is it a fair trial if the senate does not allow new witnesses to testify? The only reason why they didn't testify in the first place was because President Trump forbade them from doing so - something which is a part of the Obstruction of Congress article in the impeachment.

I was under the impression that the House decides if Trump is impeached and the Senate decides whether or not to kick him out of office. Based on this assumption, the Senate would need more info - as they are the actually jury on the case, the house just said there is reason to send this case to the jury. So, how is it fair to ban new witnesses?

  • Couldn't this be answered based on reasons given by those who voted or otherwise advocated against those witnesses?
    – JJJ
    Jan 29, 2020 at 7:43
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    @JJforTransparencyandMonica it could. But that vote wont happen until Friday. So currently this is speculation.
    – Jontia
    Jan 29, 2020 at 8:32
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    @Jontia some have already weighed in, e.g. Senator Cramer.
    – JJJ
    Jan 29, 2020 at 8:34
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    The comparison to a real legal trial and the grand jury analogy is not accurate. There isn't just one trial. The house is also supposed to do the equivalent of a trial in order to vote to impeach someone. They then use that evidence to convince the Senate to vote likewise. That's why there's no need for further witnesses. If the house found they had sufficient evidence to convict then that same evidence should be enough for the senate to convict. The grand jury analogy would lead to presidents getting impeached time and time again for no reason but the opposing party has the house majority.
    – Dunk
    Jan 31, 2020 at 13:08
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    @Dunk citation needed. Where are the standards by which the House is "supposed to" consider a question of impeachment laid out? What does precedent have to say on the matter? That is, how were the collection and hearing of evidence balanced between the house impeachment process and the senate trial in earlier impeachments (including of judges)? The process you outline suggests that the impeached should not be able to rebut house evidence during the senate trial, but must find a way to do that during the impeachment. That hardly seems fair.
    – phoog
    Feb 7, 2020 at 18:15

2 Answers 2


You make an astute observation. This isn't something which would happen in a fair legal trial.

But legally this isn't a fair trial, it's a political process.

In a fair legal trial, jurors who plan to work in total coordination with the defense would be dismissed, but the chief justice presiding over the case can't do that either.

Legal trials will have to wait until either Trump is removed from office, or the DOJ memo against indicting a sitting president is challenged/ignored.


It could be fair if the majority Senators find the charges in the articles of impeachment do not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

Lets start with a hypothetical where articles of impeachment are drafted accusing the president of idolatry, the worship of false gods, in particular one named Ra.

Is it fair for the Senate to exclude witnesses with regard to if Ra is a true or a false god? Is it fair to exclude witnesses who claim to have heard the president pray to Ra?

Some would say the Senate can skip the witnesses (from either side) on the basis that the charge of idolatry, is not included in "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

But what if 55% of the Senators are devoutly religious and want to know the answers? What if polls show that 60% of Americans don't believe in Ra? My answer is based on the concept of jurisdiction, the Senate simply isn't authorized hear arguments based on the 10 commandments in the U.S.A.

Of course the current impeachment is not as clear-cut as my hypothetical.

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    (Regarding answer) It could be so, but the case was not dismissed by motion (e.g. as "charges not impeachable"); there were not enough votes for that.
    – Fizz
    Jan 29, 2020 at 6:30
  • Was that before opening arguments? Jan 29, 2020 at 7:11
  • @Burt_Harris: there wasn't a formal vote, but the GOP leadership probed the more skeptical GOP senators abcnews.go.com/Politics/…
    – Fizz
    Jan 29, 2020 at 19:18
  • @Fizz, that was before the House even named impeachment managers or sent the articles to the Senate. Dismissing at that point would have been an entirely different matter. Jan 29, 2020 at 20:52
  • Right now McConnell is worried he doesn't have the votes to reject all witnesses, which is more or less the same thing. washingtonpost.com/politics/impeachment-trial-live-updates/2020/…
    – Fizz
    Jan 29, 2020 at 21:21

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