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Roberts admonishes House managers, Trump lawyers after heated exchange

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts warned the House impeachment managers and President Trump’s lawyers early Wednesday morning to keep their tone civil after their arguments in the Senate impeachment trial became heated and personal after a clash over procedure.

“It is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Roberts warned.

“One reason it has earned that title is because its members avoid speaking in a manner and using language that is not conducive to civil discourse,” he said.

The chief justice noted that in a 1905 Senate impeachment trial a senator objected when one of the managers used the word “pettifogging” and the presiding officer at the trial agreed “the word ought not to have been used.”

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“I don’t think we need to aspire to that high standard, but I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are,” he said.

Roberts delivered his admonishment after House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone exchanged harsh remarks about the other side’s conduct and motives.

Nadler angered the White House lawyers when he characterized their arguments for not subpoenaing former national security adviser John Bolton as claiming “executive privilege or other nonsense.”

He also chastised senators for voting for what he called a “cover-up” if they block subpoenas for additional witnesses and documents.

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“I’m sad to say I see a lot of senators voting for a cover-up, voting to deny witnesses,” he said.

Cipollone, irate over the comment, demanded an apology to the chamber.

“Mr. Nadler came up here and made false allegations against our team. He made false allegations against all of you. He accused you of a cover-up. He’s been making false allegations against the president. The only one who should be embarrassed, Mr. Nadler, is you for the way you’ve addressed this body,” he thundered on the floor. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared relieved by Roberts’s effort to diffuse the sharpening tensions. 

“Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice,” he said, before making a motion to table Nadler’s amendment requiring Bolton’s testimony. 

Updated at 1:42 a.m.

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