Lead House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) told the Senate that the White House lawyers do not trust Chief Justice John Roberts and are afraid of a fair trial because they would not agree in advance to be bound by all of his rulings.
Schiff was trying to offer his own answer to an earlier question about whether the Chief Justice can make decisions about whether to subpoena witnesses and documents, or whether that decision belongs to the Senators themselves.
There is a precedent for the Chief Justice making procedural rulings, but also being overruled by the Senate, dating back to the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in 1868 (though that case is usually cited as an example of what not to do). In that trial, the Chief Justice also cast two tie-breaking votes.
Deputy White House Counsel Patrick Philbin explained to the Senators that they made the final decisions. But Schiff told them they could only do so in “some” circumstances.
He then made an offer: he claimed — speaking for all Democrats, apparently — that his side would abide by all rulings of the Chief Justice.
He claimed that Republicans would not. “If not, just as the president doesn’t trust what these witnesses have to say, the president’s lawyers don’t want to rely on what the Chief Justice’s rulings might be.”
Schiff added that the White House didn’t believe the Chief Justice would be unfair: “Quite the contrary: they’re afraid he’ll be fair,” he claimed, adding that they did not want a fair trial.
Later, in response to a follow-up question from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), White House lawyer Jay Sekulow explained that the White House would not give up its prerogatives to the judiciary — just as it would not do so to the House. “That’s not the constitutional design.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.