WASHINGTON (AP) — Chief Justice John Roberts was never going to be vote No. 51.
Roberts said Friday that he had no intention of breaking a tie in President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, dispelling something of a mystery that had hung over the proceedings.
The statement from Roberts came before senators prepared to vote on a resolution setting the schedule for the final stages of the trial. Senators are expected to vote Wednesday on whether to acquit Trump. Earlier in the evening, they voted by a 51-49 margin to reject witnesses at the trial.
The question of whether a chief justice is empowered to break a tie in an impeachment trial is regarded as an open issue among legal scholars.
Roberts was responding to a question from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who asked Roberts if he was aware that in the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson in 1868, the presiding chief justice cast two tie-breaking votes.
Roberts said he was, explaining that one concerned a motion to adjourn while the other involved a motion to close deliberations.
“I do not regard those isolated episodes 150 years ago as sufficient to support a general authority to break ties,” Roberts said. “I think it would inappropriate for me, an unelected official from a different branch of government, to assert the power to change that result so that the motion would succeed.”