Roberts thanks Senate as impeachment trial ends

Roberts thanks Senate as impeachment trial ends
© PBS

Chief Justice John Roberts on Wednesday thanked the Senate for helping him carry out his duties as the presiding officer in President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE's impeachment trial.

Roberts described his role as one with “ill-defined responsibilities in an unfamiliar setting” in remarks shortly after the chamber voted to acquit Trump on two impeachment charges for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Roberts said he hoped to see the senators again “under happier circumstances,” and invited them to the Supreme Court.

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“As I depart the chamber, I do so with an invitation to visit the court,” he said. “By long tradition and in memory of the 135 years we sat in this building, we keep the front row of the gallery in our courtroom open for members of Congress who might want to drop by to see an argument, or escape one.”

Roberts, who is constitutionally obligated to preside over the Senate impeachment trial of a president, played a mostly ceremonial role since his Jan. 16 swearing-in.

His performance earned him bipartisan applause in the chamber on Wednesday, as well as a golden gavel, which was also bestowed upon Roberts’s late mentor Chief Justice William Rehnquist after presiding over the impeachment trial of President Clinton. 

“I think we can agree that the chief justice put in his due, and then some,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks Overnight Health Care: Ohio governor tests positive for COVID-19 ahead of Trump's visit | US shows signs of coronavirus peak, but difficult days lie ahead | Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day MORE (R-Ky.) said, before a congressional page walked to the well of the Senate to deliver the gavel to Roberts.

In his role as presiding officer, Roberts strove to avoid being drawn the partisan fights that marked the trial.

He avoided casting a tie-breaking vote on the crucial issue of whether to allow witnesses, which was voted down by a razor-thin majority. He also declined to read aloud a question from Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus MORE (R-Ky.) that would have outed a whistleblower who helped set in motion the impeachment.

Roberts also expressed gratitude for the “unfailing patience” of the Senate parliamentarian, whom he could be seen conferring with throughout the trial.