John Roberts Has the Power to Allow Impeachment Witnesses | Time
The most prominent question today, is shall the Senate hear witnesses? Precedent suggests the answer is “yes”– there have been 15 prior impeachment trials in the Senate (two involving Presidents) and all have had witness testimony in the Senate. And there is no Constitutional bar against witnesses in what the Constitution refers to as an impeachment “trial.” But Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader in the Senate, is clearly willing to ignore precedent and has thus far refused to commit to calling witnesses. He even considers that his constitutional oath to do “impartial justice” permits him to coordinate every aspect of trial management with counsel for the President, who objects to witnesses.
But wait a minute. While McConnell is not mentioned in the Constitution, Chief Justice John Roberts is. Indeed, it is the Chief Justice of the United States who shall “preside” over the trial, not the Majority Leader. So why isn’t it up to Roberts to decide whether witnesses shall appear?
Absent anything in the Constitution to the contrary, it seems obvious that the witness dispute should be resolved by the ruling of the constitutionally appointed “Presiding Officer” of the trial. This is especially true if we were to abide by the conservative element of our judiciary that insists on the strict construction of the words of any constitutional or statutory provision.