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John Roberts Finally Gets His Day as Umpire

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How is John Roberts going to shape the impeachment of President Donald Trump?

As the presiding officer in President Trump’s impeachment trial, the Chief Justice of the United States finds himself in a role very different from the one he normally occupies. In their day jobs, Supreme Court justices decide well-formed legal questions with the benefit of extensive briefing, discussion with peers, and a lot of time to think. As the presiding officer at a trial, Roberts will be called upon to make decisions on the spot and all alone—something unusual in the career of a justice who has never been a trial judge.

Some of the decisions Roberts makes will resolve conflicts that Democrats and Republicans have been having—or planning to have—for weeks. For example, the Senate’s standing rules for impeachments give Roberts the power to issue orders compelling witnesses to appear. So Roberts might have to decide whether to issue such an order to Hunter Biden, whom Republicans want to grill about his Ukrainian ties, or to former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who refused to testify in the House impeachment proceedings but has said he's willing to appear before the Senate. Roberts will also have the power to rule on the admissibility of evidence.

To be sure, these powers won’t affect the trial’s outcome, which Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has all but promised will be an acquittal. No matter what information the Senate hears, the chances of 20 Republican Senators voting to remove the........

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