3. During the Senate trial, are the senators to act as “jurors”?
Although the Senate proceedings are a trial, the participating senators do not strictly function as jurors, as they have the ability to change the rules of the trial and override decisions by the presiding officer, the chief justice. This point was clarified during an odd moment of the 1999 Clinton trial, when Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) interrupted a presentation from one of the House managers to “object to the use . . . of the word ‘juror’” to describe senators, and to highlight the differences between regular jurors and senators sitting in an impeachment trial.
Chief Justice Rehnquist agreed: “The senator from Iowa’s view is well taken. The Senate is not a jury, it is a court in this case. And therefore counsel should refrain from referring to senators as ‘jurors.’”