If any lawyer in a United States courtroom were to be discovered to have given substantial sums of money to a juror in a trial that they are arguing, either the juror would immediately be thrown off the jury or the lawyer would be taken off the case and subject to ethical sanctions by the local bar association.
Yet what happens when this situation occurs in an impeachment trial where the jurors are senators and the legal team represents the president?
Apparently nothing despite the revelations that members of Donald Trump’s legal defense team have donated thousands in campaign contributions to the Republican senators to whom they are now presenting their defense of the president.
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According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CFPR), two members of Trump’s defense team, Ken Starr and Robert Ray, have donated thousands of dollars to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) within the last year. Starr has also contributed to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as well.
Another Trump attorney, Jay Sekulow, has also contributed to several Republican senators over the years including both Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Senator John Thune (R-SD). Sekulow joined White House counsel Pat Cipollone and deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin in donating thousands to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012.
In any other trial, such a tainted jury would be grounds for a mistrial. At the very least, the history of payments to these Senators should require them to recuse themselves from judgment or to call for Trump to retain legal counsel free of these sorts of conflicts of interest.
If the Republican majority in the Senate had an ounce of respect for the appearance of a fair trial — something that their behavior to date seems to prove that is not the case — then they would be forced to exclude any Senator who was the recipient of campaign donations from any member of the Trump legal defense team.
Given that such action would likely eliminate the Republican majority in the voting during the trial — effecting the rule-making on witnesses and evidence as well as the final verdict — it’s extremely unlikely that anything at all will be done to rectify the massive conflict of interest polluting the jury pool.
If that is the case — and Trump is acquitted — then Democrats and the rest of America have yet another legitimate reason to consider the entire impeachment trial a manipulated sham with a preordained outcome.
Given the very public announcements by both Senators McConnell and Graham before the trial had even started that they didn’t need to see evidence or hear from witnesses to reach the judgment that Trump should be acquitted, more than enough evidence already exists to reach that conclusion, but the financial ties to Trump’s defense team merely adds icing to the bitter cake.
Original reporting by Igor Derysh at Salon.