The leader of the highest court in the United States will likely receive a lot of attention next month. In January, Chief Justice John Roberts will supervise the trial of President Donald Trump in the U.S. Senate. Lawmakers there will decide if Trump is guilty of two charges against him: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
If guilt is the ruling, Trump would be removed from office. However, the senate is expected to find him not guilty.
Chief Justice John Roberts will have more influence on Trump’s presidency back at the Supreme Court building, across the street from the Senate. There, Roberts will play a major part in deciding several important cases that directly affect Trump.
One deals with whether a president needs to give his financial records to government investigators and lawyers. Trump has long fought to keep his finances secret. And, unlike other recent presidents, he has refused to make his tax information public.
In a few months, the Supreme Court will decide whether Trump must offer his financial records. The court’s ruling will affect future presidents, and also the current one: It will likely come in the middle of Trump’s re-election campaign.
How Roberts will vote on the case is not known. In recent decisions, Roberts has often joined with the four generally conservative judges. However, he also sometimes agrees with decisions made by the four more liberal judges. Roberts may be the deciding vote in the financial records case.
An uneasy position
But first, the Senate trial. The U.S. Constitution says the chief justice of the Supreme Court will oversee a trial to decide whether the president is removed from office. But the job is mostly ceremonial.
The senators – not the chief justice – set the rules for the trial. Roberts’ job is to keep the process moving in an orderly way.
People who know the chief justice say he will take his job at the trial seriously. He is likely reading about the only two other impeachment trials in U.S. history – those of Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999. In both cases, the presidents remained in office.
During Clinton’s trial, the chief justice was William Rehnquist. A law school professor who worked for Rehnquist at the time said the chief justice had “relatively little to do” during the trial.
Roberts has not spoken publicly about leading the Trump impeachment trial. Observers have noted that Roberts does not like calling attention to himself.
But he did take the unusual step of disagreeing publicly with Trump in November 2018. After the president spoke against judges who had ruled against him, Roberts issued a statement. It rejected the idea that federal judges worked for one president or another. And it defended “an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”
Roberts said that an independent judiciary is “something we should all be thankful for.”
I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.
Lawrence Hurley wrote this story for Reuters. Kelly Jean Kelly adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.