Chief Justice John Roberts admonished both sides at the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, urging those presenting to “remember where they are.”
Roberts intervened after a testy back-and-forth between Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), a House manager and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and the president’s counsels Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow.
Nadler scolded the GOP-majority Senate for voting against hearing new key witnesses at the outset of the trial, in particular testimony from Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton, calling it “treacherous.”
Cipollone told Nadler he owed an apology and hit out at the congressman’s “false allegations,” while Sekulow accused the Democrat of shredding the constitution.
“I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and the president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Roberts said after the exchange ended on Tuesday night.
“One reason it has earned that title is because its members avoid speaking in a manner and using language that is not conducive to civil discourse.
“In the 1905 Swain trial, a Senator objected when one of the managers used the word pettifoggery and the presiding officer said the word ought not to have been used.
“I don’t think we need to aspire to that high a standard, but I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are.”
Democrats attempted through a series of amendments to secure the Senate’s backing for bringing Bolton to testify about his knowledge of the alleged Ukraine scheme at the center of the case for removing Trump from office.
Trump, who denies any wrongdoing, is impeached with two articles: Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The House accuses Trump of soliciting Ukraine’s interference in the 2020 election to benefit his campaign and then obstructing efforts to investigate.
Nadler said on the Senate floor that Americans should be “shocked” that senators would not vote to bring Bolton or other witnesses to testify.
“The president is on trial in the Senate, but the Senate is on trial in the eyes of the American people. Will you vote to allow all of the relevant evidence to be presented here or will you betray your pledge to be an impartial jury?” Nadler said.
“Will you bring Ambassador Bolton here? Will you permit us to present you with the entire record of the president’s misconduct? Or will you instead choose to be complicit in the president’s cover-up?
“So far, I’m sad to say, I see a lot of senators voting for a cover-up, voting to deny witnesses—an absolutely indefensible vote, obviously. A treacherous vote. A vote against an honest consideration of the evidence against the president. A vote against an honest trial, a vote against the United States.”
Cipollone, the White House counsel, stepped up and said Nadler was making “false allegations” against Trump, the senators and the president’s counsel.
“The only one who should be embarrassed, Mr. Nadler, is you for the way you’ve addressed this body. This is the United States Senate. You’re not in charge here,” Cipollone said.
“The American people pay their salaries and they are here to take away their vote. They’re here to take away their voice. They’ve come here and they’ve attacked every institution of our government…It’s about time we bring this power trip in for a landing.
“It is a farce and it should end. 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, a lawyer for the president, said Nadler had “shred the constitution on the floor of the Senate…I’ll tell you what’s treacherous, come to the floor of the Senate and say ‘executive privilege and other nonsense.'”
The session ended in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Republicans voted to hear the arguments first before deciding on calling witnesses later on in the trial.
This article was updated with more background information.