WASHINGTON — Chief Justice John Roberts delivered a sharp rebuke to both House managers and lawyers for President Donald Trump for their decorum as the impeachment trial debate passed 1 a.m. Wednesday, a marathon session that turned heated between the legal teams.
After several days of serving in a largely passive role overseeing the trial, Roberts interjected after a particularly pointed exchange between House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and two lawyers for Trump, Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow.
“I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Roberts said.
Nadler delivered an extended statement attacking the president and calling on the Senate to subpoena testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton. Cipollone responded by saying the New York congressman “should be ashamed … for the way you addressed this body.”
“It’s about time we bring this power trip in for a landing,” Cipollone said, prompting Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., to chuckle. “It’s a farce … Mr. Nadler, you owe an apology to the president of the United States and his family, you owe an apology to the Senate, but most of all, you owe an apology to the American people.”
Sekulow followed Cipollone and went a step further in his words and tone.
“The Senate is not on trial,” he almost shouted.
During these remarks, Nadler did not meet Sekulow’s gaze. As the White House counsel concluded, he returned to his table and threw down his papers in disgust.
The tensions rose further as Nadler responded, calling Cipollone a liar in one case. Cipollone shook his head, along with several Republican senators.
The exchange occurred as the Senate dealt with another Democratic amendment to the resolution, offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to set the guidelines for the trial and whether additional witnesses or documents need to be produced.
Republicans have refused to consider the witness question until both legal teams present their cases in the coming days, but Democrats have used the impeachment rules to force votes on the issue before either side formally presents its case.
As happened with every Democratic amendment offered, including this one to subpoena Bolton, the Senate rejected the request, 53 to 47, entirely along party lines.
Roberts, before calling for that vote, delivered his admonition to the lawyers. He recounted a 1905 impeachment trial of a federal judge, when a House manager was admonished for using the phrase “pettifogging.”
“I don’t think we need to aspire to that high of standard, but I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are,” Roberts said.