As is customary for a sitting chief justice to do, current Chief Justice John Roberts this week issued an end-of-year report on the state of the judicial branch in the United States.
Most of the report reflects on the importance of the judiciary to be a promoter of civic education for the rest of the nation. But a couple of passages by Roberts may indicate his viewpoints as it pertains to an impending impeachment trial in the Senate, which could be cause for some worry for President Donald Trump — especially if Roberts lives up to the principles he has espoused in his essay.
Roberts lashed out at the problems of social media in our society, noting that false narratives can dominate Facebook and Twitter feeds in ways that are harmful to democracy.
“In the ensuing years [since the adoption of the Constitution], we have come to take democracy for granted, and civic education has fallen by the wayside,” Roberts wrote. “In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public’s need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital.”
Wise words from John Roberts at the close of the decade: "In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public's need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital." https://t.co/313nyNJGQX
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) January 1, 2020
This could be a veiled reference to Trump himself, who often shares information on social media that comes from disreputable sources, or states aloud beliefs that are provably false. The president has lied or misled the American people more than 15,000 times in 1,055 days in office, a report from the Washington Post in early December noted.
Roberts went on to add that the “strong and independent judiciary” is a “key source of national unity and stability.”
“But we should also remember that justice is not inevitable. We should reflect on our duty to judge without fear or favor, deciding each matter with humility, integrity, and dispatch,” Roberts wrote.
Roberts will be the chief administrator of the Senate impeachment trial, and while he will not be allowed to make any of the rules within that chamber, he will be tasked with ensuring the rules are followed. He’ll also be charged with issuing any subpoenas for witnesses that are requested, again pending the rules that are made within the Senate regarding the trial itself.