Democratic Senator Wants To Force Chief Justice John Roberts To Decide On Impeachment Witnesses

Republicans appear increasingly confident that they will have the votes necessary to block witnesses from testifying at President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, but one Democratic senator hopes that Chief Justice John Roberts can change that.

Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen is planning to force a vote on Friday that would call on Roberts to subpoena witnesses that are relevant to the charges that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to launch an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden. As The Hill reported, Van Hollen is planning a motion that would allow Roberts to call witnesses, though Republicans could still block that measure and overrule him.

“A fair trial includes relevant documents and witnesses. And in a fair trial the judge determines what evidence is admitted,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “My motion ensures the Chief Justice will serve the same role as a judge in any trial across our country – to allow the Senate access to the facts they need to get to the truth.”

Van Hollen’s motion would also allow Roberts to rule on whether Trump could claim executive privilege. Trump would be expected to claim executive privilege to block Democrats from interviewing a number of top White House officials who would have first-hand knowledge of the president’s actions regarding Ukraine, including former national security adviser John Bolton.

It was uncertain earlier in the week whether Republicans would have the necessary votes to stop Democrats from calling witnesses, as a number of GOP members said they could be open to witnesses testifying. As The New York Times reported, both the White House and Republicans were working hard on Wednesday to secure the necessary votes and many seemed confident they had it. Wyoming Senator Tom Barrasso, the No. 3 Republican, said he had seen enough to vote and predicted that Republicans would call for a final vote on Friday.

Van Hollen appears to be banking on the idea that Republicans would not vote to overrule Roberts if he were to rule in favor of witnesses.

“No Republican can question the fairness of this approach – the Chief Justice oversees the highest court in our land and was nominated by a Republican President. And, given his authority to rule on questions of privilege, they should not fear a drawn-out process,” Van Hollen said.

“I urge my colleagues to seek out the truth and the facts and to vote in support of my motion. Anything else constitutes an effort to hide the truth,” he added.

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