According to CNN legal analyst & Supreme Court biographer Joan Biskupic, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is currently facing the defining moment of his career on the bench as he presides over the impeachment trial of Donald Trump and he needs to give serious thought as to how history will treat him if he allows the Republican Party to brush aside the charges against the president.
With the Republican-controlled Senate expected to vote to block attempts to allow witnesses to appear in the trial — or end in a 50-50 deadlock — it will be up to Roberts to decide if he wants to intercede and keep the trial alive.
“Roberts has led the US Supreme Court for 15 years. Now age 65, he may serve another 15 years as chief justice. But Friday, he could face a moment on the elevated Senate dais that significantly shapes his legacy — if it gets to that point,” she wrote. “The chief justice could be pressed to break a tie vote on whether witnesses will be called. And he will almost certainly face further pleas by Democratic House managers to intervene and require a deeper review of the Trump allegations.”
With Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) coming out against allowing witnesses late Thursday night, the reality of a truncated trial withe the public overwhelmingly wanting witnesses to be called — particularly in light of former national security advisor John Bolton’s Ukraine revelations in his upcoming book — Roberts is the only roadblock that stands between a legitimate inquiry and allowing the president to continue to conduct business in the way he has.
“At the high court, Roberts works away from the clicking cameras. More Americans have no doubt seen more of him this month than they have seen of him at least since 2005, when he appeared before the Senate for his confirmation hearings,” she explained. “During the last nine trial days, Roberts has firmly enforced Senate impeachment rules. He appeared to know all senators by name and state as they asked to be recognized for their respective questions.”
“Now, he could be forced into a more difficult dilemma. As a vote over witnesses nears and the Senate may be evenly divided on the question, Democrats especially have argued that Roberts should be able to break a tie vote<‘s she continued. “When the vice president presides over the Senate, he can cast a vote when the Senate is tied, but that power is specified in the Constitution. For the trial of a President, the Constitution states that chief justice shall preside but does not detail his power.”
Noting that scholars are conflicted on whether Roberts can intercede, Biskupic suggests he could — but may choose not to.
“If presented with a 50-50 split, Roberts could assume voting authority,” she wrote. “Yet, based on Roberts’ trademark caution and use of Rehnquist as a model, he may shun any opportunity to make a real difference in this trial. Roberts would also be mindful that however he responds, his actions would color public regard not only for his stature but that of the federal judiciary.”
“Roberts has worn the heavy mantle of public expectations in his role at the middle of an ideologically divided bench. Through the years, he has disappointed conservatives who wanted the Republican George W. Bush appointee to vote consistently for their side. Roberts has equally frustrated liberals seeking regular replays of his 2012 decisive vote, with the four liberal justices, to uphold the Barack Obama-sponsored Affordable Care Act,” she added, before stating that he has yet to provide a clue how he night rule in the event of a tie.
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Trump’s Fate Could Be in the Hands of One Retiring Republican Senator – Who Says He Will Have a Statement Tonight
One Senator may hold the fate of President Donald Trump’s future. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who will turn 80 this summer, is retiring at the end of his term next January.
The Washington Post’s Robert Costa and CNN’s Manu Raju say Senator Alexander, who no doubt is concerned with how history will record his actions, is the “critical vote on witnesses” and will “decide tonight” if he will vote to allow or deny them to testify.
ALEXANDER to decide tonight… the critical vote on witnesses https://t.co/Ur2JNi9cAN
— Robert Costa (@costareports) January 31, 2020
Raju reports that Alexander’s decision “will make clear whether the Senate trial will come to a swift conclusion or if it will lead to a new phase over witnesses and documents.”
Key swing vote Sen. Lamar Alexander told me he’s going to announce his decision on witnesses TONIGHT, a decision that will make clear whether the Senate trial will come to a swift conclusion or if it will lead to a new phase over witnesses and documents.
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 31, 2020
Costa adds that Alexander was “close to Howard Baker of Watergate fame.”
History hovers over Alexander… retiring, at the end of his career. Was close to Howard Baker of Watergate fame. Former Gov, Cabinet member. Helped build modern TN. Ran for president. Not close to Trump, but also a solid R. The vote everyone has been watching for weeks.
— Robert Costa (@costareports) January 31, 2020
He may be referring to Baker’s famous statement during the Watergate hearings: “What did the President know and when did he know it?” (Although Baker also reportedly had had secret dealings with Nixon.)
Sen. Alexander says he will issue a statement Thursday night at the end of the Senate’s two-day Q & A session.
This is a breaking news and developing story. Details may change. This story will be updated, and NCRM will likely publish follow-up stories on this news. Stay tuned and refresh for updates.
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