The role of the chief justice of the Supreme Court during an impeachment trial is a very interesting one.
In this particular trial, which is fueled by partisan hatred, Justice John Roberts has made it quite clear he will be neutral and allow the politicians to battle this one out.
The role of the chief justice
During an impeachment trial, the role of the chief justice is largely ceremonial. He or she can rule on procedural issues, but those decisions can also be overruled by a majority vote of the jurors.
Because of this, Chief Justice Roberts, when asked to make a ruling, will more than likely defer to a vote of the jurors rather than make a ruling that will only be overturned if the majority does not agree. This posture could frustrate both Democrats and Republicans during the trial process.
The one issue on which we would expect Republicans to rely heavily on Justice Roberts concerns the admission of hearsay as evidence.
He could also be asked to rule on the obstruction of Congress charge itself, which most experts have agreed is bogus to begin with, because the Dems have not allowed the court cases related to documents and witnesses play out.
Political commentator Tim Rogan wrote that we can expect three things from Justice Roberts this week: “few interruptions, a determination against perceivable bias, and no shows of obvious emotion.”
Weaponizing the process
If everyone is being honest, save for a grave violation of the law, the impeachment process itself is extremely flawed. Look at how both the Clinton and Trump impeachments were conducted as proof of this.
In both cases, the party finding guilt did not occupy the Oval Office but did control the House, while the President’s party controlled the Senate. Because of the power balance, the outcomes were determined long before the first witness was ever called, and everyone in the country knew it.
Democrats have weaponized impeachment here even more than Republicans did during the Clinton impeachment.
Trump’s impeachment has made it clearer than ever that this process is easily abused when a political party grows desperate.
In a highly partisan fight such as this one, hopefully Justice Roberts will put aside any politically-motivated ill will he has towards Trump and stick with his longstanding record of impartiality.