'Time for him to do his job': Public urged to press Chief Justice Roberts to subpoena witnesses amid GOP 'cover-up'
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge John G. Roberts Jr. testifies before Senate Judiciary Committee during confirmation hearings to be Chief Justice. (Rob Crandall/Shutterstock)

"Roberts' job is to preside over a fair trial, where relevant witnesses are heard from and jurors actually listen to the evidence. Right now, he's helping Republicans break the rules and cover for Trump. That has to end."

Progressives have a message for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is currently presiding over President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial: "Do your job" and stop enabling Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's "cover-up."

Court reform group Demand Justice launched a digital ad campaign Monday urging the U.S. public to flood the Supreme Court with calls demanding that Roberts use his Constitutional authority to subpoena witnesses such as former National Security Advisor John Bolton.

"Roberts shouldn't get a free pass as he goes along with McConnell's sham trial."

—Brian Fallon, Demand Justice

As Common Dreamsreported Sunday, Bolton alleges in an unpublished book manuscript that Trump wanted to keep Ukraine aid frozen to pressure that country's government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

The White House and Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, have thus far blocked witnesses from testifying in the impeachment trial, reportedly out of fear that allowing one witness could open the "floodgates" for others.

"Roberts shouldn't get a free pass as he goes along with McConnell's sham trial," tweeted Demand Justice executive director Brian Fallon. "If Republicans won't commit to letting witnesses like Bolton testify, Roberts can rule in favor of a motion to subpoena those witnesses and force the GOP to try to overrule him."

Overruling the chief justice would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate.

In an op-ed for the New York Times Monday, Georgetown law professors Neal Katyal and Joshua Geltzer and former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards disputed the notion that Roberts' role in the Senate impeachment trial is "largely honorific."

"If there were any doubt, recall the language of the Constitution, which orders that, in an impeachment trial of the president, 'the chief justice shall preside,'" Katyal, Geltzer, and Edwards wrote. "To 'preside' is not a merely symbolic role."

The trio called on House Democratic impeachment managers to "ask the chief justice to issue subpoenas on his authority so that key witnesses of relevance like John Bolton and [Acting Chief of Staff] Mick Mulvaney appear in the Senate, and the Senate should subpoena all relevant documents as well."

"This isn't a matter of Democrats needing four 'moderate' Republicans to vote for subpoenas and witnesses, as the Trump lawyers have been claiming," said Katyal, Geltzer, and Edwards. "Rather, the impeachment rules, like all trial systems, put a large thumb on the scale of issuing subpoenas and place that power within the authority of the judge, in this case the chief justice."

Demand Justice echoed the demands outlined in the Times op-ed, encouraging "Americans to call the Supreme Court and tell Roberts to both ensure a fair trial by ruling in favor of a motion to hear testimony from all relevant witnesses."

"So far, Chief Justice Roberts has shown more concern for [Maine Republican Sen.] Susan Collins' feelings than for ensuring a legitimate impeachment inquiry," Fallon said in a statement, referring to Roberts' decision to admonish both House impeachment managers and Trump's counsel after Collins complained about comments by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who last week accused GOP senators of abetting a cover-up.

"Roberts has a responsibility to preside over a fair trial, and that means a trial where jurors actually listen to evidence and relevant witnesses are heard from," said Fallon. "It's time for him to do his job instead of enabling McConnell's cover-up operation."