Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. rejected Democratic efforts to rope him into possibly playing an active role in the impeachment trial of President Trump, saying he will not cast any tie-breaking votes.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, Democrats’ floor leader, had suggested the chief justice could break ties, pointing back to the trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868, where the chief justice at that time did cast votes to break two ties on procedural issues.
Senators rebelled against that involvement, and Chief Justice Roberts said he didn’t consider those two “isolated episodes” to be sufficient precedent for him to get involved.
He said he would not cast a vote in case of a 50-50 tie, and in that case whatever the motion was would fail for lack of a majority.
“It would be inappropriate for me, an unelected official from a different branch of government, to assert the power to change that result so that the motion would succeed,” he said from the chair.
His declaration came just before the Senate was slated to vote on three different motions by Democrats to try to extend the trial by calling witnesses, and one motion to require the chief justice to play a more active role by letting him decide himself whether to call witnesses.
Chief Justice Roberts has been presiding for the last two weeks over the impeachment trial, as prescribed in the Constitution.
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Democrats have repeatedly suggested he could play a major rule, such as arbitrating questions of witnesses and evidence and any privilege claims the president might exert. Mr. Trump’s team rejected that suggestion, saying that’s not how the process works.