President Trump Knows His Jury

“Who is your jury?”

That’s the first question I ask my consulting clients when we sit down to work on creating a message, and a messenger, that wins support, attention, loyalty and engagement. You can’t advocate to win until you know your jury. For some of my clients, the “jury” is their investors, their clients, their customers or their team members. For others, the jury is the voices inside their own heads. Once we know the jury, we work to see things through that jury’s perspective. We want to see what they see, because what you see impacts what you think, then what you feel, then how you act and then what you get. What you see really is what you get. So we need to change what our jury sees in order to get the outcome we want.

When I watch the impeachment hearings that have just begun in our nation’s capital, I think a lot about juries. In this situation, who is the jury? For President Trump, the jury is the Senators hearing the evidence and deciding whether or not to impeach him. They are the ones who will ultimately judge whether President Trump wins or loses. So in order to win, both sides need to know that jury. They need to see things the way the jury sees them.

President Trump’s jury consists of 53 Republican Senators and 47 Democrats. And right away, things get interesting. Because a jury is meant to be impartial. In fact, when the Senators took their oath before these impeachment hearings started they solemnly swore that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States now pending, they would “do impartial justice according to the constitution and laws”.

But they aren’t impartial. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats walk into these hearings without biases. There’s very little impartiality in politics. In fact, Senator Mitch McConnell recently admitted “I’m not impartial at all.” And while we can debate whether he should be, or whether he should admit it when he is not, the truth is this — juries aren’t impartial.

For 20 years I’ve tried medical malpractice cases in front of juries. And during jury selection in almost all of those cases, almost all of those jurors have admitted to a bias. It’s human. In my cases, the bias is almost always towards the patient. The jurors are all patients. They see things the way a patient sees them, which leads to thinking the way a patient would, feeling the way a patient would, and acting the way a patient would. What you get, then, is a juror who is not and cannot be impartial. These jurors usually say they would do their best to put any biases aside and try the case based on the evidence and the law. And in my experience they do try, and that’s the best we can ask.

But jurors are not impartial. They are human. And a great lawyer knows this. I always say “A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyer knows the jury.” When you know what the jury is partial to, and what the jury sees, you can use it. And, when necessary, you can work to change it. President Trump knows his jury. In fact, the Wall Street Journal has reported that, in anticipation of the impeachment hearings, he met with over 120 House Republicans and nearly all 53 Senate Republicans. If I could meet with my jury before my trials, I’d know them pretty darn well….and that would help me win.

So what’s next for President Trump and his jury of partial Senators? We know that there are a few Senators who may see things differently. Senator Susan Collins, from Maine, is one. Each side should be getting to know her perspective. How does she see this hearing? We know she is up for reelection this year in a state where Hillary Clinton won in the presidential election. She is also facing a potential primary challenge. That will impact how she sees this hearing, her role in it, and her vote. Both sides would be well served to see things the way she does, and then work to use that vision for their benefit.

Senators Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski are two other jurors who might see things differently. Both have indicated a willingness to consider allowing witnesses to testify in the impeachment hearing, which is something that President Trump would likely prefer to avoid. As advocates, the House managers and President Trump’s defense team should be focusing on those jurors who are on the fence and seeing through their perspective to use it to their benefit.

Given that the Senate is made up of 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats, it seems clear to me that we know what the outcome of this trial will be. President Trump seems quite confident in his jury, and in the outcome. However, there’s something else to consider — there’s always another jury.

In my consulting work, we often have to create a message to speak to a jury of investors, and then as soon as my client has the funding she needs we turn around and advocate to a jury of customers. Juries change daily, and sometimes even hourly. Sometimes you’re advocating to two juries at once. That’s what is happening here. And when it comes to the impeachment hearings, the ultimate jury is not the Senators. It’s the voters.

We are the jury. Ultimately, we decide the fate of President Trump. We also decide the fates of Senators Sanders, Warren, Biden and Klobuchar. And the fate of these politicians will not be decided in that hearing room, but rather in the voting booth. All of the candidates need to advocate for themselves and their ideas. They need to know their jury — us — and what we see, what we want, and where we struggle. President Trump definitely knows the jury in the impeachment hearings, and that knowledge will likely lead to a win. But it is the candidate who knows their jury of voters the best, who creates a message that speaks to that jury and hones the messenger to best relay that message who will win in the end.This is true in politics, and it is true in life.

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