Chief Justice Roberts Opts Out of the Impeachment Circus
There are plenty of legitimate criticisms of Justice Roberts.
The Roberts Court, specifically the Roberts part of it, has repeatedly sided with lefties on issues that would get its eponymous figure disinvited from the cocktail party circuit. When faced with a serious choice, Roberts has usually taken the easy way out and turned into the direction of the greatest social pressure.
Refusing to preside over the impeachment trial is arguably a step in that direction. But by his standards, it's an act of courage to indicate by omission that the whole thing is a circus and that he wants no part of it. It's not that Roberts doesn't hate President Trump, but it's likely that he doesn't think former presidents can be impeached and that he sees the whole thing as an ugly and cynical political circus operating under the faintest tinge of the color of law.
The Supreme Court already kicked two lawsuits against President Trump to the curb.
One of the suits, brought by the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, along with New York area restaurant owners and workers, was filed days after Trump took office in 2017. The other was filed in June of that year by the attorneys general of the District of Columbia and Maryland.
After more than three years in the courts, neither case had reached a fact-finding stage.
Formally, the justices' decision Monday declared the two suits moot — apparently due to Trump leaving office last week. The high court also wiped out rulings that federal appeals courts in New York and Virginia had issued saying the suits could proceed to discovery.
The Supreme Court did not offer a detailed explanation of its rationale. No justice recorded any dissent. The action was announced as part of a routine orders list the court issued Monday morning.
Last October, the justices turned down review of another suit focused on Trump's alleged profits from his presidency. That suit, brought by Democratic Senators and House members, was turned aside by a federal appeals court on standing grounds.
The Court is sending a message that it's done with playing a role in Democrat vendettas against President Trump. And Roberts has decided not to even partake in an impeachment trial.
It's also one of the rare times that Roberts' behavior should be a model for Republicans.
There are legitimate differences of opinion here, but there's also a good case to be made for Senate Republicans who refuse to participate in this circus to walk away and leave the Democrats and those former Republicans who want to side with them to hold their illegitimate partisan event without Republican participation.
Democrats want this to be an official Senate proceeding. Walking away would expose this as a partisan sham.
I doubt that will actually happen, but having Senator Leahy presiding over the trial, instead of the Chief Justice, already sends a message about its legitimacy.