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Schiff says Justice Roberts should rule on witnesses

Schiff says Justice Roberts should rule on witnesses
© Greg Nash

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Trump pardons Michael Flynn MORE (D-Calif.) said Friday night that Chief Justice John Roberts should be called upon to resolve disputes over witnesses for the impeachment trial of President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE.

Schiff’s remarks came as the Senate braces for a make-or-break vote next week on the admissibility of new witnesses and documents for the Senate trial.

Republicans have warned that efforts to subpoena testimony would likely draw an assertion of executive privilege by the president, triggering a protracted court battle.

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But Schiff argued Friday that the Senate could bypass extended litigation by calling on Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, to rule on the issue.

“To the degree that there were a dispute over whether a privilege applied, we have a perfectly good judge sitting behind me, empowered by the rules of this body to resolve those disputes,” Schiff said as House managers’ three-day presentation came to a close.

The Constitution appoints the chief justice to preside over presidential impeachment trials in the Senate.

The rules that govern the arrangement between the Senate and Roberts say the presiding officer “may rule” on all questions of evidence.

However, a single senator can appeal the ruling. That would trigger a vote in the Senate, where a simple majority would overturn Roberts.

In a moment of levity, Schiff encouraged senators to imagine that scenario playing out.

“How often do you get the chance to overrule a chief justice of the Supreme Court?” Schiff said, prompting laughter. “You have to admit, it's every legislator's dream.”

Legal experts say prior Supreme Court decisions would offer scant guidance on resolving an assertion by Trump of executive privilege, the legal doctrine that shields certain presidential communications.