Trump Supporters Want John Roberts to Recuse Himself From Impeachment Trial

Tom Williams/Zuma

Follow me, if you will, on a brief hypothetical journey. Let’s say the House of Representatives draws up and passes articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Per the Constitution, Chief Justice John Roberts would preside over Trump’s trial in the Senate. Now, imagine Roberts—a George W. Bush appointee—recusing himself from the trial because he once publicly emphasized judges’ responsibility to act in a non-partisan manner.

That’s how influential Trump supporter and radio host John Cardillo would have it, the conservative Washington Times reported Sunday. Cardillo claims that a statement made by Roberts in November 2018—in response to Trump’s criticism of a federal judge—means that he is biased against the president.

“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts wrote last year in a statement released by the court’s public information office. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”

For Cardillo, these comments are apparently disqualifying. “There is already a crisis of confidence among the American people that we have a fair system of justice,” he said, according to the Times. “When you have a chief justice of the Supreme Court overtly making comments that are derogatory to the president of the United States, take all speculation out of the process.”

The framing of the article suggests the Times is taking Cardillo’s argument seriously, though the story does make clear that constitutional law experts roundly reject Cardillo’s reasoning. Orin Kerr, a scholar at UC Berkeley, called the argument for recusal “weak” and “hard to square” with the Constitution.

In the unlikely event that Roberts did decide to recuse himself, the most senior justice would step in, according to one expert cited by the Times. That’s Clarence Thomas, the most conservative member of the court.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Give a Year of the Truth

at our special holiday rate

just $12

Order Now

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.