The role of Chief Justice John Roberts in the impeachment trial of President Trump was described as “ceremonial” this afternoon by John Dean, former Nixon White House counsel, who appeared on Anderson Cooper Full Circle to discuss how the trial compares to Clinton’s in 1999.
Roberts’ role in the trial has become a popular topic among readers who submitted questions on what he can and cannot do.
The Constitution requires Roberts’ presence in the trial. It says: “The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments” and that “When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside.”
As it happened with Chief Justice William Rehnquist who oversaw former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment case in 1999, Roberts will have office quarters in the Capitol’s ceremonial President’s Room.
Dean addressed the case against Clinton and how it compares to Trump:
“It’s our most recent historical example. There aren’t a lot of these impeachments,” Dean said. “We just don’t have this with presidents, thanks goodness. It is the best we have to look at. We know what worked and didn’t work. Unfortunately, we’re not following the model. It’s a modified version of the model that’s not favorable to the American people.”
The public is unlikely to see Roberts cast any votes in this trial. So far, he has recited procedural rules, kept the clock, read aloud vote tallies and scolded the Democratic House managers and the President’s defense team early Wednesday morning after a contentious exchange on the Senate floor.
This impeachment trial is a more scripted affair for Roberts — he will work closely with the Senate parliamentarian — yet one controlled by the predilections of others.