Elizabeth Warren Questions John Roberts’ ‘Legitimacy,’ Makes Visibly Annoyed Chief Justice Read Question Aloud
As opposing sides in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump continued to battle over whether to include witness testimony on Thursday, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren provoked a rare, visible reaction from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts when she submitted a question about his own “legitimacy,” according to a report by Fox News.
Roberts, as required by the United States Constitution, presides over the Senate impeachment trial. As part of that role, he is required to read aloud the questions submitted by senators. The inquiries may be directed either to the House impeachment managers, Trump’s lawyers or both teams.
With the Senate Republican majority appearing increasingly unlikely to allow any witnesses at all to be called in the impeachment trial, Warren fashioned a question designed to bring the witness issue home to Roberts himself.
As seen in the video below, the Massachusetts senator’s question began by noting that large numbers of “Americans have lost faith in government.” She then asked if the fact that the chief justice was presiding over a trial in which the senate majority party “refused to allow witnesses or evidence” would contribute to “the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice,” as well as of the Supreme Court and the Constitution.
While Roberts has generally maintained a neutral demeanor when reading questions submitted by senators, he appeared to be visibly disturbed by Warren’s inquiry.
On Wednesday, the first day of the impeachment trial’s question session, California Senator Kamala Harris also put Roberts in an awkward position, forcing him to read a quote by Trump from the infamous 2016 “Access Hollywood tape.”
Democrats hope to persuade Roberts to take a more active role in the Trump impeachment trial. According to an ABC News report, the party’s senators are now planning to introduce a motion that would give the chief justice the responsibility for issuing subpoenas for witness testimony and other evidence, “if he determines they are relevant.”
On the opening day of the trial January 21, Republicans shot down repeated Democratic motions to subpoena witnesses and documents, defeating each motion by a party-line 53-47 vote. But the new motion, if successful, would take away the Republicans’ power to bar witnesses.
Answering the question posed by Warren, lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff demurred.
“I would not say that it contributes to a loss of confidence in the chief justice,” Schiff responded, as quoted by The Hill, adding that Roberts has presided over the trial “admirably.”