Political News

John Roberts, as Senate trial nears end, finally says he won't break ties

Posted January 31, 2020 7:46 p.m. EST

— Chief Justice John Roberts made crystal clear Friday night that he has no intention of intervening in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump by casting a tie-breaking vote.

Speculation had mounted during the trial whether Roberts would act, as Democrats hoped the chief could help them force the Republican majority to allow witnesses to be called. A chief justice had previously settled Senate ties in an impeachment trial -- back in 1868 -- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, noted.

But when asked directly about whether he would get involved, Roberts said he would not.

Here's the exchange:

Schumer: "Is the chief justice aware that in the impeachment trial of President Johnson, Chief Justice Chase, as presiding officer, cast tie-breaking votes on both March 31 and April 2, 1868?"

Roberts: "I am, Mr. Leader. The one concerned a motion to adjourn; the other concerned a motion to close deliberations. I do not regard those isolated episodes 150 years ago as sufficient to support a general authority to break ties. If the members of this body elected by the people and accountable to them divide equally on a motion, the normal rule is that the motion fails. I think 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."

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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