Chief Justice John Roberts emerges unscathed

Sen. Lamar Alexander will not vote for new witnesses

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WASHINGTON – For two branches of the federal government already held in low esteem, the Senate impeachment trial that wrapped up Wednesday likely won’t raise the ratings of President Donald Trump or Congress.

But Chief Justice John Roberts emerged from three weeks as the trial’s presiding officer with his reputation intact and, therefore, the Supreme Court’s as well.

It’s a good thing, because the court is the only branch of government viewed favorably by a majority of Americans. A Marquette Law School poll in October found 57% of those surveyed trusted the Supreme Court the most, compared to 22% for Congress and 21% for the president.

That level of trust will be needed as Roberts, 65, returns to his chambers across the street from the Capitol for what promises to be a highly contentious second half of the court’s 2019 term.

President Donald Trump passes by an unsmiling Chief Justice John Roberts before delivering his State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday night.

The justices face cases on abortion, immigration, religion, gay rights and gun rights. They also must decide if Trump can keep his tax returns and financial records away from prosecutors and investigators.

In the wake of this week’s messy Iowa Democratic caucuses, partisan State of the Union address and Trump’s acquittal in the Senate, Roberts and his eight colleagues would do best to appear impartial and above the fray when they hear and decide those cases. 

More:Senate votes to acquit Trump

That’s what the chief justice sought to do during the three-week impeachment trial. He briefly reprimanded House prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers for their language. He refused to read Sen. Rand Paul’s question naming a person who may have been the whistleblower regarding Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. He kept a firm hand on the clock, as he does at the Supreme Court.

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