John Roberts: Chief Justice’s Integrity & Character at Stake
The Impeachment Trial of President Donald J Trump is the biggest test of integrity and character for the Chief Justice of the United States. Will the Chief Justice of the United States, the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of the United States and the highest-ranking officer of the U.S. Federal Judiciary, uphold the ‘Law of the Land’ to protect the American Constitution and the Justice System? The whole world is watching him with keen eyes.
The Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts’s integrity and character is at high stake as the Presiding Officer at Trump’s Impeachment trial in the Senate. More than the President, John Roberts should worry how the 33 billion Americans will look at him as the ‘Law Saviour’. His integrity is in question. Will the Chief Justice act as a mute spectator or a blind justice official in favour of the corrupt authoritarian President to prove that ‘Trump is above the law?’ or else, will John Roberts uphold the Law?
It becomes imperative for the Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts to conduct the Impeachment Trial in a full and fair process as the man, who is the highest-ranking officer of the U.S. Federal Judiciary. His image has already been tarnished, when he allowed the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to overrule all the requested amendments at the beginning of the trial.
SENATE DECORUM: The Big Farce!
It was quiet fascinating to watch Chief Justice Roberts admonishing the House Manager Jerry Nadler and President Defense Counsel Pat Cipollone on the very first day of the Impeachment Trial. He scolded stating, “I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House Managers and the President’s Counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body. Those addressing the Senate should remember where they are. History will judge and so will the electorate.”
‘Senate Decorum’ is truly the big farce under the aegis of the American Constitution, when it was clear from the very beginning that the Impeachment Trial in the Senate is all about the ‘Lawful’ versus the ‘Unlawful’. The so-called sacred oath administered by the Chief Justice of the United States to all the 100 Senators pledging to do ‘Impartial Justice’ was broken by the 53 Republican Senators at the onset by blocking fact witnesses, requested documents and evidences.
The Chief Justice acted as the silent spectator, as if the 53 Republican Senators were acting to preserve the ‘Senate Decorum’ by blocking witnesses and evidences at the beginning of the Impeachment Trial. It is also very ironical that John Roberts did not remind or scold the Senators to maintain the ‘Senate Decorum’ and act as impartial jurors, because they had taken the sacred oath. Isn’t it hilarious and skeptical? It is indeed!
The President has proved time and again to the whole world that he is a pathological liar, cares a damn about the 233-year-old American Constitution, will threaten everyone who goes against him, break the ‘Law of the Land’, intimidate witnesses and those who testified, block all the House subpoenas and have a blanket ban of all the White House documents. The Chief Justice is well aware about all these facts, so why John Roberts has acted as a silent spectator?
Mounting Pressure on the Chief Justice
In the Op-Ed in The New York Times dated 27th January 2020, titled – ‘John Roberts Can Call Witnesses to Trump’s Trial. Will He?’ by Neal Katyal – the author of ‘Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump’, Joshua Geltzer – former Deputy Legal Adviser and Senior Director for Counterterrorism at the National Security Council and Mickey Edwards – former Republican Congressman from Oklahoma has mounted additional pressure on the Chief Justice of the United States.
As per the latest polls, an overwhelming 75% of the Americans, including 49% of Republicans, want the Senate to hear from John Bolton and other relevant witnesses and see all the requested documents to be released for a full and fair trial. Interestingly, new factual evidences are coming out in the open every single day as the Impeachment Trial is progressing. The Ukraine affair is all about the unethical policy of Donald Trump to win the 2020 Presidential Election.
John Bolton’s soon-to-be-released book titled ‘The Room Where It Happened’ has exposed Trump’s Defense Lawyers’ brazen lies even further and President’s ill-intent to win the next election at all cost. Yet, the Chief Justice has remained silent to allow the Republican Senators’ intention to uphold the President’s abnormal decision to block all the materials.
It is really amazing how the above-mentioned three scholars have enlightened the Americans and the world that the Chief Justice has the sole power and choice to make the decision and not the Republican Senators. Like all trial systems, the Impeachment Rules put a large thumb on the scale of issuing subpoenas and place that power within the authority of the judge, in this case the Chief Justice.
Will John Roberts act as the impartial judge in this case to subpoena all the required witnesses, namely, John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo, William Barr, Mike Pence, Rick Perry, Ron Johnson, Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas, William Duffey and the White House for blocking all the requested documents? If John Roberts acts like a mute spectator, his longstanding credentials as an impartial judge to hold the highest-ranking officer of the U.S. Federal Judiciary is in question too!
The false claim of the 53 Republican Senators that they have the votes to block the witnesses in the trial is a misconception. When the Chief Justice will issue subpoenas to relevant witnesses and the White House for relevant documents, the Senate will only be able to overrule it with a two-thirds vote of 67 and not a majority of the Senate, that is, 51 votes. As the Presiding Officer, John Roberts has imperative responsibility to give the 33 billion Americans a full and fair trial to hold ‘Supreme Justice’.
History indicates the Senate Rules for Impeachment have been effective since 1868. Rule XXIV outlines the specific language a subpoena must use the ‘form of subpoena to be issued on the application of the Managers of the Impeachment, or of the party impeached, or of his counsel’. There is no ‘Senate Vote’ requirement whatsoever in the Subpoena Rule, a Manager can seek on its own.
The Rules empowers the Presiding Officer, the Chief Justice, even further to enforce the Subpoena Rule. Rule V indicates, “The Presiding Officer shall have power to make, and issue by himself or by the Secretary of the Senate, all orders, mandates, writs, and precepts authorized by these rules, or by the Senate, and to make and enforce such other regulations and orders in the premises as the Senate may authorize or provide.”
As per the American Constitution, the Presiding Officer is the Chief Justice. Hence, the Chief Justice has the ‘power to make, and issue subpoenas by himself’. President’s allies have distorted the still-in-effect separate Rule by stretching it to say that Senate majority can override the Chief Justice’s decision to call for witness.
In the relevant part of Rule VII, it reads, “The Presiding Officer on the trial may rule on all questions of evidence including, but not limited to, questions of relevancy, materiality, and redundancy of evidence and incidental questions, which ruling shall stand as the judgment of the Senate, unless some Member of the Senate shall ask that a formal vote be taken thereon, in which case it shall be submitted to the Senate for decision without debate.”
President’s allies are saying the last Clause authorizes a majority of Senators to overrule the Chief Justice on matters including subpoena issuance. However, in plain text, it is carefully drawn to be about “questions of evidence”: Whether, for example, a line of witness questioning is relevant or not. The issuance of a Rule XXIV subpoena, however, is not a question of evidence. In normal litigation, we would call it a discovery question.
Whatever one calls it here, it simply isn’t an evidence question: It’s not about whether to admit into evidence a particular document, but about obtaining that document in the first place; and it’s not about whether a witness must answer a specific question, but about forcing that witness at least to show up. And that threshold question falls squarely under Rule V — meaning under the chief justice’s authority alone. And that’s why the Senate, despite outlining the rules for subpoenas, never made its subpoena rules governed by Rule VII.
The American Constitution clearly states that in an Impeachment Trial of the President, ‘the Chief Justice shall preside’. To preside is not a merely symbolic role – it can mean, just as it meant during President Andrew Johnson’s Impeachment Trial, to be asked to make a range of actual rulings, including ones on which the Chief Justice is not merely the first word, but also the last.
Not even a single impeached President in the American history has tried to hide all the facts from the Congress before Donald Trump and fight all the subpoenas. If Chief Justice Roberts is being asked to answer difficult questions, it is a direct result of President Trump’s scorched-earth approach to congressional oversight. The Framers’ wisdom gave this responsibility to a member of the judiciary expected to be apolitical and impartial has never been clearer.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had boasted openly in the media interaction that he is not an impartial juror and that he would coordinate everything with the White House Defense Team even before the Impeachment Trial began. The sworn oath to hold the trail as ‘impartial justice’ is very in question in Trump’s Impeachment Trial.
The House Managers should ask the Chief Justice to issue subpoenas for key witnesses and documents by emphasizing that the Senate Rules make John Roberts and him alone to make the decision to enforce the subpoenas. It is the prerogative and great responsibility of the Presiding Officer John Roberts, one that he cannot overlook under any circumstances.
Rule V’s pre-existing empowerment of the Chief Justice to issue subpoenas and do not restrict his ability to issue subpoenas under his Rule V authority. To amend the Rule V, the Senate requires two-thirds vote, which neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have at this juncture.
It is high time for the Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts to uphold the Law of the Land to hold ‘Impartial Justice’! Or else, will the Chief Justice prove LAW means – Lies Always Win?