Federal judges are taking up the challenge to educate Americans about how their government works at a time when false information can spread instantaneously on social media, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote Tuesday in his annual year-end report. With the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump looming, Roberts, who will preside over the trial in the Senate, focused on the independence of the judiciary and the role of judges in promoting civic education in the United States. Judges must continue promoting public confidence in the judiciary, through their rulings and civic outreach, he said.
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. has “come to take democracy for granted,” Chief Justice John Roberts said, urging his fellow judges to keep educating the public about the workings of the federal government and the Constitution.Roberts, who is slated to oversee the Senate‘s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the coming weeks, used his year-end report Tuesday to laud the federal judiciary’s work on civic education, while issuing a thinly veiled warning about the fragility of American democracy in a fractious time.“We have come to take democracy for granted, and civic education has fallen by the wayside,” Roberts wrote. “In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public’s need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital.”Roberts described a 1788 riot that incapacitated John Jay while he was working with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison on the Federalist Papers, a series of articles published to promote the ratification of the Constitution. Jay was hit in the head with a rock while trying to quell the riot, which was sparked by a rumor that medical students were dissecting the body of a recently deceased woman. Jay later became the first U.S. chief justice.“It is sadly ironic that John Jay’s efforts to educate his fellow citizens about the framers’ plan of government fell victim to a rock thrown by a rioter motivated by a rumor,” Roberts wrote.Roberts has become the nation’s leading champion of judicial independence since being appointed to the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush in 2005. In his new report, the chief justice called the judiciary “a source of national unity and stability” but added a cautionary note.“We should also remember that justice is not inevitable,” Roberts wrote in a passage directed at his judicial colleagues. “We should reflect on our duty to judge without fear or favor, deciding each matter with humility, integrity, and dispatch.”Roberts, 64, is in the middle of a challenging Supreme Court term that includes cases on LGBTQ discrimination, abortion and gun rights. In late March or early April the court will hear arguments on Trump’s effort to prevent his financial information from being turned over to Congress and a New York grand jury.Roberts released the report three days after his mother, Rosemary A. Roberts, died at age 90. Her obituary said she was surrounded by her family when she passed away.To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at email@example.com, Laurie Asséo, Anna EdgertonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Mitch McConnell is still refusing to describe how the Senate trial on the impeachment of Donald Trump will be structured. However, The New York Times reports that the Republican leader is clear on one point: no witnesses allowed.
In just the few days since Trump was impeached in the House, additional evidence has appeared concerning his monthslong attempt to extort Ukraine into manufacturing dirt for use against one of his potential opponents in the 2020 election, Vice President Joe Biden. That includes emails showing that Trump blocked military assistance to Ukraine just minutes after his phone call with the Ukrainian president; Office of Management and Budget officials admitting that Trump’s action was illegal; and White House attorneys cooking up a theory that it was all just fine because Trump is genuinely above the law. This new information, and the fact that Trump blocked the most critical witnesses from appearing before the House, are really good reasons that there should be witnesses at Trump’s Senate trial.
But according to the Times, McConnell is nixing any possibility of witnesses, and has warned other Republicans that allowing any witnesses to speak would provide “an opening for uncertainty during the trial.”
It’s worth taking a moment to understand what McConnell means by this. If there’s anything that can be said about the trial at the moment, it’s that everything about it is uncertain. There’s no information about its length, about the rules under such it will be conducted, or about any other aspect of it. McConnell has even floated the idea of bringing in some of Trump’s most vocal supporters in the House as kind of special advisers to the Senate, which would be a genuinely unsettling action.
But when McConnell says he’s worried about “an opening for uncertainty,” what he really means is that someone might say something. If they actually had Mick Mulvaney there to confess that the OMB knew that placing a hold on the assistance was illegal, or had Bolton there to talk about the actual harm done by Trump’s actions, or had Rudy Giuliani spilling his guts about smearing an ambassador for the benefit of “his client”—if the Senate heard any of those things, it might have to listen.
Of course, it remains unlikely that enough Republicans would vote for removal to threaten Trump, even if Giuliani showed up to confess actual murder. But any witnesses, and perhaps especially those OMB officials who scrambled to enforce Trump’s 84-day delay, while simultaneously admitting that they knew it was wrong, might be enough not only to peel away some Republicans up for reelection, but also to threaten others on the bubble. Like, say, Mitch McConnell.
McConnell is flat-out saying that he can’t allow witnesses because witnesses might give evidence that Trump can’t withstand. Which is pretty good evidence all on its own.