Political News

Chief justice's rebuke at impeachment trial highlights rising tensions

Posted January 22, 2020 5:12 p.m. EST

— The Senate is still reeling from a combative exchange between the House impeachment managers and the President's defense team that triggered a rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts and highlighted rising tensions at the impeachment trial.

Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, called for decorum in the early hours of Wednesday, saying, "It is appropriate for me to admonish both the House managers and the President's counsel in equal terms," after listening to the managers and the defense team tear into each other. In heated rhetoric, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York, one of the Democratic impeachment managers, had said, "I see a lot of senators voting for a cover-up," while White House counsel Pat Cipollone fired back, "The only one who should be embarrassed, Mr. Nadler, is you."

Senators on both sides of the aisle said on Wednesday that it was appropriate for the chief justice to deliver the admonishment, but a number of Republican senators are bristling over the cutting commentary from Nadler.

"You don't come into the Senate and accuse senators of engaging in a cover-up or saying that we're on trial. No, we're not," Sen. Ron Johnson said, adding that the comments were "jaw-dropping, couldn't really believe what we were hearing."

The Wisconsin Republican called the admonishment "completely appropriate," adding, "I think we all realize he was admonishing the House Democrats, but, again, trying to keep it nonpartisan."

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said, "I thought what Chairman Nadler said and how he conducted himself was outrageous."

Cornyn said the suggestion that GOP senators were participating in a cover-up was "insulting" and a "shock to all of us," but that he appreciated the chief justice admonishing all the senators to "do better."

"Chairman Nadler ... when he started talking, I mean, people kind of jerked to attention, because what he was saying and the way he was conducting himself -- I think it was so insulting and outrageous it was a shock to all of us," Cornyn said.

Sen. Dick Durbin said he was "glad that the chief Justice admonished both sides to remember where they are."

"I could understand how people on the other side could take offense, but there were some things said as well by the President's counsel," the Illinois Democrat said, but added, "It's behind us. We've got a bigger job to focus on."

Other senators expressed hope that there won't be any more reprimands from the chief justice.

Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota said of the incident, "It was late in the evening and there were some inappropriate comments made primarily by the House managers, but the fact that he (Roberts) tried to keep it on an even keel was appropriate and hopefully they got the message."

Republican Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota said the scolding served as a kind of "reset."

"We'd been there by that time for almost 12 hours straight. I think it was just kind of a good reset. He did it in a good way," Hoeven said.

Hoeven added, though, of the proceedings overall, "It's a very serious matter. It's impeachment. Of course it's intense."

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