Thu, 20 Feb 2020

U.S. chief justice pulls warring senators into line

By Jay Jackson, Houston News.Net
22 Jan 2020, 22:07 GMT+10

WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, presiding over the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, has told both sides they need to get their act together.

Both the Democratic House managers and the president's defense team spent most of Tuesday and early Wednesday at logger-heads, with several angry outbursts, which ultimately prompted the chief justice's rebuke.

"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," he said in the early hours of Wednesday morning. "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."

The chief justice's intervention came following a heated argument between the two legal teams on the Senate floor, which was sparked by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler's demand a subpoena be issued for former national security adviser John Bolton to testimony. During this exchange, Nadler accused Republican senators of being engaged in a "coverup," by denying examination of documents and witnesses.

"So far, I'm sad to say, I see a lot of senators voting for a coverup. Voting to deny witnesses and obviously a treacherous vote," Nadler said. "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 responded: "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."

Roberts intervened, saying that kind of exchange was not appropriate.

"In the 1905 Swain trial, a senator objected when one of the managers used the word 'pettifogging' and the presiding officer said the word ought not to have been used," Roberts said. "I don't think we need to aspire to that high of a standard, but I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are."

The U.S. Senate in the early hours of Wednesday morning, after a marathon session of more than 12 hours, approved the rules for the impeachment trial.

The 100 senators who make up the body voted 53 to 47 to adopt the trial schedule, in line with the Republican party's 53-47 majority.

The Democrats 11 attempts to introduce amendments calling for documents and witnesses were all blocked by the Republican senators, with each vote recorded at 53-47.

The president is accused of abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a gas company in Ukraine. It is alleged Mr Trump threatened to block $391 million in military aid of his demands were not met. The funds were eventually paid regardless. The president is additionally accused of obstructing a congressional investigation into his actions.

The current impeachment trial is the third such trial involving a U.S. president.

Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 were both impeached by the House but acquitted in Senate trials. Another president, Richard Nixon, resigned in 1974 before he was more than likely going to be impeached.

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