Is Chief Justice Roberts new in town? Has he been asleep for the past thirty years since House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich rebranded the opposition the “Democrat Party” and instructed his fellow Republicans to refer to them with terms like sick, pathetic, lie, anti-flag, traitors, radical, corrupt? Washington, D.C. is not a nice place on the best of days. And this is certainly not the best of days.
At the conclusion of 12 hours of senate impeachment hearings last night, the Chief Justice tut-tutted, “I think it is appropriate 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.”
“One reason it has earned that title is because its members avoid speaking in a manner and using language that is not conducive to civil discourse.”
“In the 1905 Swayne trial, a senator objected when one of the managers used the word ‘pettifogg,’ and the presiding officer said the word ought not to have been used,” Roberts continued. “I don’t think we need to aspire to that high a standard, but I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are.”
As if he wasn’t addressing the body which refused to even hold a vote on Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court, only to entirely discard the judicial filibuster and senatorial blue slips to block home-state judges.
Justice Roberts’ admonition came after a particularly vituperative exchange between the House managers and Trump’s defense team. Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, accused Senate Republicans of “voting for a coverup” by preliminarily blocking former NSA John Bolton’s testimony, calling it, “A vote against an honest consideration of the evidence against the President. A vote against an honest trial. A vote against the United States.”
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone accused Nadler of self-aggrandizement, saying, “It’s about time we bring this power trip in for a landing,” and later adding, “The only one who should be embarrassed, Mr. Nadler, is you. For the way you addressed this body. This is the United States Senate. You’re not in charge here.”
“The Senate is not on trial,” howled the president’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow, because defending a constitutional vote is presumably easier than explaining away the illegal withholding of congressionally allocated defense aid until a foreign government agrees to slime your political rival. “The Constitution doesn’t allow what just took place.”
Historians may debate whether the rampant false statements of fact by the president’s lawyers or the outraged response by the House prosecutors was most inappropriate. But in the immediate aftermath, it’s the GOP who has seized on Roberts’ statement to pronounce themselves grievously injured by the rough-tongued rapscallions from the Democrat party.
“It was clear what the impetus for that was,” said Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, a former Roberts clerk. “It was Nadler getting up and calling the president’s counsel a bunch of liars — repeatedly calling them liars. Which is a terrible breach of courtroom decorum.”
“It was so insulting and outrageous it was a shock to all of us,” huffed Texas’s John Cornyn, who once described Trump’s call for four congresswomen of color to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came” an “unforced error.”
“I’m not covering up anything, I’m exposing your hatred!” screeched Lindsey Graham, in a flop that would make Manu Ginobili blush.
And the pettifoggery continues apace today, with another day of marathon impeachment hearings. What ancient lingo will the Chief Justice resurrect for today’s admonition of those irreverent scallawags? Tune in after midnight for an edge-of-the-seat mild rebuke from Hizzoner!
Chief Justice Roberts admonishes impeachment lawyers, telling them to ‘remember where they are’ [WaPo]
John Roberts scolds legal teams after tense exchange: ‘Those addressing the Senate should remember where they are’ [CNN]
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