01/10/2020

Senate Democrats are pressing Chief Justice John Roberts to rule in favor of calling witnesses at…

Senate Democrats are pressing Chief Justice John Roberts to rule in favor of calling witnesses at President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmersTrump administration planning to crack down on ‘birth tourism’: reportGeorge Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: ‘Hard to see how either could help’MORE’s impeachment trial, while Republicans argue it could force his recusal from potential Supreme Court cases. 
Democrats say it’s simple: A trial cant be a fair one without witnesses. Republicans counter that if Roberts rules on witnesses, he will have to recuse himself from any Supreme Court case on Trump’s claims of executive privilege over potential witnesses like former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonGOP senator ‘open’ to impeachment witnesses ‘within the scope’ of articlesTrump Jr.: If ‘weaker’ Republicans only call for certain witnesses, ‘they don’t deserve to be in office’House Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn’tMORE and acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyHouse Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn’tGraham: Abuse of power ‘poorly defined’ in articles of impeachmentDemocrats file brief against Trump, ‘the Framers’ worst nightmare’MORE.
I dont know how you have a serious trial unless you hear from witnesses who know in fact what the facts are, what happened, said Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersNYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for presidentTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmersBiden breaks away from 2020 pack in South CarolinaMORE (I-Vt.), a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
I think it would be appropriate for the chief justice to do what I think should be done, and that is to allow witnesses to testify, he added.
While Roberts is expected to refer major disputes over trial procedures to the entire Senate for a vote, some Democrats hope he will make his own rulings on what they say are basic questions of fair jurisprudence.
Democrats argue that holding a trial but blocking the consideration of relevant witness testimony and document review would fall well short of whats considered a fair trial in any court of law. 
Weve been working to get an agreement with Republicans about the relevant witnesses for the trial and relevant documents and were continuing that effort, said Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenParnas pressure grows on Senate GOPOvernight Defense: GAO finds administration broke law by withholding Ukraine aid | Senate opens Trump trial | Pentagon to resume training Saudi students soon GAO finds Trump administration broke law by withholding Ukraine aidMORE (D-Md.). Those types of questions will have to be considered as the trial proceeds. 
Senators who want Roberts to intervene have pointed to the precedent set by then-Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase in the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson.
Chase broke two ties on procedural deadlocks, including a vote on whether he could break ties.
Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump administration installs plaque marking finish of 100 miles of border wall Sanders defends vote against USMCA: ‘Not a single damn mention’ of climate changeSchumer votes against USMCA, citing climate implicationsMORE (D-N.Y.) has focused his demands on four witnesses: Bolton, Mulvaney, senior White House adviser Robert Blair, and senior Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey.
Republicans are pushing back, arguing Trump is expected to assert executive privilege to block the four witnesses Democrats have requested.
The chief justice is supposed to preside, not make decisions for the Senate, said a senior Senate GOP aide. 
It would be a conundrum for the chief justice, the aide added. Lets say [Roberts] says, Im going to break the tie, and John Bolton has to testify. Wouldnt he have to recuse himself when the Supreme Court gets the question as to whether executive privilege applies?
The aide said it would be an unprecedented interference into the third branch into the first branch.
A second senior Senate Republican aide said the chief justice doesnt vote, adding that you need 51 votes to decide trial procedures.
Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMurkowski wants senators to ‘really hear the case’ before deciding on impeachment witnessesRepublicans will pay on Election Day for politicizing Trump’s impeachmentGOP threatens to weaponize impeachment witnesses amid standoff MORE (R-Alaska) told The Hill she has received briefing materials from former senators who participated in the 1999 Clinton trial arguing Roberts should not be able to break a tie. 
So far, she is still thinking about what his role should be. 
Its my understanding that if its a tie, it fails, she said, summarizing the briefing paper. 
The chief justice is expected to do everything possible to avoid politicizing their role through partisan rulings, but Roberts could also come under harsh criticism from Democrats if he takes no action and allows Republicans to proceed with their preferred format, which does not include witnesses.
When Roberts swore-in senators at the start of the trial on Thursday, he asked them to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.
Every Senate impeachment trial in our history, all 15 that were brought to completion, featured witnesses. Every single one, Schumer said Thursday. The precedent in impeachment trials in the Senate is to have witnesses. To have no witnesses would be a dramatic break with precedent. 
Schumer is also seeking to subpoena three sets of documents. He wants memos and emails related to efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce certain political investigations; documents related to the decision at the White House to withhold a meeting with the newly elected Ukrainian president; and communication touching the decision to withhold $391 million in military assistance to Ukraine. 
So far, two Republican senators have said they will likely vote to call additional witnesses.
Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe TRUST Act is a plot to gut Social Security behind closed doorsRepublicans will pay on Election Day for politicizing Trump’s impeachmentBring on the brokered conventionMORE (Utah) told reporters, I presume Ill be voting in favor of hearing from John Bolton, perhaps among others.
Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMitch McConnell may win the impeachment and lose the SenateMurkowski wants senators to ‘really hear the case’ before deciding on impeachment witnessesRepublicans will pay on Election Day for politicizing Trump’s impeachmentMORE (Maine) issued a statement Thursday saying it is likely that I would support a motion to call witnesses after both sides present opening arguments.
A third Republican, Murkowski, said she is curious to hear what Bolton has to say but wont reveal how shell vote on witness subpoenas.
Finding a fourth GOP senator to vote for subpoenas would be a tougher task, raising the prospect of a Senate deadlock.
Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the chamber.
Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate opens Trump impeachment trialDemocrats ask if US citizens were detained at border checkpoints due to Iranian national originPelosi set to send impeachment articles to the Senate next weekMORE (Calif.), the top-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said Roberts should break a 50-50 tie on a major procedural question, such as whether to subpoena Bolton or Mulvaney.
It seems to me it should, she said. Tie vote is essentially a no on whatever the issue is. Im not sure in this kind of situation that the body wants to sustain immobility, that you cant move out of it. So something ought to break a tie.
But Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyGOP senator on Trump soliciting foreign interference: ‘Those are just statements’Sunday shows – All eyes on Senate impeachment trialGOP senator says it looks like House has ‘weak hand’MORE (R-Ala.) said it would be odd for the chief justice to decide procedural questions that have become very politicized in recent weeks. 
This is a Senate procedure, he said. In a committee, if you have a tie vote you dont prevail. And thats what would happen here, I would think.