Hans von Spakovsky: John Roberts ‘Doesn’t Have the Authority’ to Shield Whistleblower

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 30: In this screenshot taken from a Senate Television webcast, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts speaks during impeachment proceedings in the Senate chamber at the U.S. Capitol on January 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. On Thursday, Senators continue asking questions for the House impeachment managers …
Senate Television via Getty Images

Hans von Spakovsky, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and manager of its Election Law Reform Initiative, told Breitbart News that Chief Justice John Roberts lacks the authority to block questions submitted by senators in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. He joined Thursday’s edition of SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Daily for an interview with host Alex Marlow.

Marlow asked about Roberts blocking questions submitted by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) regarding the “whistleblower” who filed an ethics complaint against Trump regarding the president’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in April 2019.

Von Spakovsky replied, “I think that was a major error by the chief justice. He may be the presiding officer of this trial, but that is largely a ceremonial post. He does not have the authority — he doesn’t — under the rules of the Senate to make decisions about evidence, decisions about witnesses, or anything like that, and that includes [blocking Paul’s question]. He doesn’t have the authority to do something like that, to not allow a senator to ask a question in the way he wants it asked.”

Von Spakovsky added, “Frankly, if I was the president’s team, I would be very loudly talking about the whistleblower and who he is.”


“Would Chief Justice Roberts perhaps block the whistleblower if he gets called?” asked Marlow.

Von Spakovsky answered, “No. I think if that happens, there would be a movement in the Senate by the senators to basically instruct [Roberts] that he can’t do that, because he doesn’t have the power to do it.”

Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) style of presentation at the impeachment trial is unappealing, assessed von Spakovsky.

“[Schiff’s] professional experience — maybe it’s his political experience — has taught him the wrong lesson,” von Spakovsky stated. “I’ve been a lawyer for a long time, more than three decades. I was a litigator for quite awhile, and I’ve encountered lawyers like Schiff who think that insulting the other side — making snide remarks — will somehow win them a case, and my experience has been the exact opposite. That just upsets people. It upsets judges. It upsets juries.”

Von Spakovsky added, “If you can give a good [and] interesting presentation on the actual facts and evidence, you’re much more likely to win a case —  win over jury — than the kind of presentation Schiff is doing.”

Marlow noted Schiff’s repeated references to hoax narratives pertaining to Russia and Trump.

“We all know now that the whole Russia claim was a hoax, and [Schiff] can’t seem to let go of it,” observed von Spakovsky. “Every bit of his presentation — almost all of them — he’s engaged in gross exaggerations, if not absolute lies — about the claims, and again, that doesn’t help his case. It hurts his case. If he actually had the evidence to prove his case, there would be no need to make exaggerations or to keep referring to this claim that nobody believes anymore, except apparently Adam Schiff and the crazy left-wingers who support him.”

Marlow asked what recourse is available to reprimand Schiff for false statements, highlighting Schiff’s claim to not know the “whistleblower.”

“The Speech and Debate Clause of the Constitution protects everything and anything that anyone says on the floor of the Senate or the House, but that’s an example of Schiff saying something that everybody knows — even the people on this side — is a lie, and all it does is hurt his credibility,” von Spakovsky said. “If he’s willing to lie about something like that, why would we want to believe anything else that he has to say? That’s how it hurts him, and he just doesn’t seem to realize it.”

Breitbart News Daily broadcasts live on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

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