Sen. Elizabeth Warren created an awkward moment in the Senate impeachment trial when Chief Justice John Roberts read aloud her submitted question targeting his legitimacy and that of the Supreme Court.
The Massachusetts Democrat and 2020 contender quickly came under fire, even by members of the liberal media, for her odd attempt to jab Republicans while asking the Chief Justice presiding over the impeachment trial to be critical of himself.
(Source: PBS NewsHour/YouTube)
During the question-and-answer portion of the trial on Thursday, Warren submitted a question read aloud by Roberts who will be providing the deciding vote on whether to call witnesses in the proceedings.
“At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the Chief Justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the Chief Justice, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution?” Roberts read from the card before him.
Pretty universal bewilderment in and around the chamber as to what point Sen. Warren was trying to make by her question about the trial contributing to a “loss of legitimacy” for Roberts/SCOTUS. Schiff wanted nothing to do with it.
— Mike DeBonis (@mikedebonis) January 30, 2020
He followed with a long, hard stare toward Warren as he awaited a response that soon came from impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff.
This is how Chief Justice looked at Warren for a solid 5+ seconds after reading the question https://t.co/vG08pjmhZH pic.twitter.com/62XXEhuHI1
— Heather Monahan (@HeatherMonahan_) January 30, 2020
“I would not say that it contributes to a loss of confidence in the chief justice,” Schiff said. “I think the chief justice has presided admirably.”
“I don’t think a trial without witnesses reflects adversely on the chief justice; I do think it reflects adversely on us. I think it diminishes the power of this example to the rest of the world,” the California Democrat added.
“I think a fair trial matters,” he concluded his response to Warren. “And yes senator, if they don’t get that fair trial, it will just further a cynicism that is corrosive to this institution and to our democracy.”
CNN’s Erin Burnett referred to the “moment” on the air as the “Erin Burnett OutFront” panel followed with a rebuke of Warren for crossing the line and unfairly using Roberts as a “vehicle.”
“There was that extra moment when he was done reading that question that I thought was just significant. Hard to tell. He doesn’t — he doesn’t let anything show on his face, but it seemed meaningful to him,” Burnett said.
(Source: CNN via MRC)
“I would think that it would and in some ways, he is being used as a vehicle because he has no choice but to read the words,” NYU School of Law professor and co-editor-in-chief of Just Security, Ryan Goodman, said. “So it made for that moment. So I thought it was right for what Adam Schiff did to try to then bolster him in a certain sense because I don’t think that’s necessarily playing fair for him to be put into that situation.”
He added that, with the possibility of Roberts deciding on a potential tie vote over witnesses, Warren’s ill-advised question “didn’t play well and the real question is like now what will his role otherwise be because we shouldn’t put him into that kind of a position.”
CNN political commentator Scott Jennings slammed Warren’s question as “ridiculous.”
“That was a question written by someone who’s running for president who doesn’t know any other way except to sort of be, you know, I thought rather vicious in the way she was raising the specter of his illegitimacy,” he said. “I agree with the way Schiff answered it, by the way. I thought he handled it perfectly and I thought that question was out of bounds.”
Even liberal political commentator Joe Lockhart slammed Warren’s move.
“I agree. I don’t think — I think it put him in a very tough position, and it didn’t do the Democrats any favors by putting him in that position,” he said of Roberts. “He’s going to make up his mind based on what he thinks.”
The reaction on Twitter did not bode well for Warren either, with many condemning her stunt and some wondering how she, and other senators running for president, are allowed to weigh in on a trial involving their opponent.
Warrens like, “How do we convince this court of our need for witnesses?” I know, insult the judge.
— Nick (@Nick16028023) January 30, 2020
— Loved & Imperfec†?? (@RayneNGrace) January 31, 2020
As @pkcapitol notes, the seeming attack on Roberts came a day ahead of a potential tie vote where Dems have been courting Roberts to intervene. Pelosi very solicitous today; D sens uniformly respectful.
— Mike DeBonis (@mikedebonis) January 30, 2020
Here’s a question “Why are Senators running for nomination allowed to vote on a sitting president and opponent’s removal from office?”
— Jim Tomlinson ?? (@jimetomlinson) January 30, 2020
Will someone please ask if it’s permissible for the senators running for president to vote on removing their competion.??
— Rita Staniar (@ritaredefined) January 30, 2020
Warren took a lowbrow, cheap shot. It was not the time and I am personally resent her using her position in the impeachment to indulge herself. The perfect socialist.
— Matilda (@FourthHailMary) January 31, 2020
A line of questioning that would be thrown out in any court … as many of the questions would have been …
It serves only to highlight that this isn’t a trial. It’s political theatre.
— Doug E (@xrangerd) January 31, 2020
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