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Politics Rand Paul tried to get chief justice to read whistleblower's name, but Roberts didn't take the bait

11:50  31 january  2020
11:50  31 january  2020 Source:   latimes.com

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WASHINGTON — Sen. Rand Paul on Thursday challenged the chief justice of the United States to read aloud, on national television, the name of the alleged whistleblower whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Rand Paul wearing a suit and tie: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) makes his way to the floor of the Senate at the United States Capitol in Washington D.C., on January 21, 2020, amid the impeachment trial against President Donald J. Trump.© Stefani Reynolds/CNP/Zuma Press/TNS Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) makes his way to the floor of the Senate at the United States Capitol in Washington D.C., on January 21, 2020, amid the impeachment trial against President Donald J. Trump.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, did not take the bait.

For the past day and a half, senators have been submitting questions on index cards to be answered by the House Democratic managers or members of Trump’s legal team. Each question is reviewed and read aloud by Roberts on behalf of the senator who submitted it.

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Roberts, however, had warned lawmakers on Wednesday he would not entertain questions containing the name of the possible whistleblower. The next day, Paul, a Kentucky Republican, dared Roberts to change his mind.

“The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted,” said Roberts, refusing to recite Paul’s question.

Paul immediately left the Senate floor and headed to a hastily-arranged news conference in a packed studio one floor above the chamber, where he read his question out loud himself and disparaged Roberts’ “incorrect finding.”

Afterward, Paul’s colleagues were divided about whether he, and Roberts, had acted appropriately.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, called Roberts’ rejection of Paul’s question “concerning.”

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“I think that all questions need to be considered by the body and hear those answers,” she said, “and if a senator is presenting a question, I think we should be able to hear the answer to that.”

“I think every senator should have the right to ask the question in the manner in which they should ask it,” agreed Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., one of Trump’s designated House surrogates for the impeachment trial who is also one of the president’s closest congressional allies.

Roberts handling of Paul’s question also comes at a moment when the chief justice is being closely watched for signs he might break a tie in a pivotal, potentially split vote set to come to the floor on Friday regarding whether to subpoena witnesses and documents.

Democrats, predictably, praised Roberts’ discretion and chided Paul for his actions.

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“Their antipathy to the whistleblower and obsession with the whistleblower, I guess, has displaced their obsession with Barack Obama’s birthplace,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, referring to the “Birther” movement of people who believed the former president might not be a U.S. citizen. “It’s disgusting.

“The whole point of the whistleblower — and the chief justice recognizes this — is protect the whistleblower and bring more honesty to government,” Brown added.

“Very poor judgment,” said Jon Tester, D-Mont., agreed. “This is serious, serious business.”

Although Democratic lawmakers insist they don’t know who the whistleblower is, many Republicans believe the identity is known by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the California Democrat serving as the lead House impeachment manager.

“I think, for all of us to suggest that we have no idea who the whistleblower is — listen, we all know who the whistleblower is,” said Meadows.

Paul, who has previously demanded to know the identity the whistleblower whose name has been floated in some conservative media, insisted he was not naming the whistleblower on Thursday.

“It’s not about the whistleblower,” Paul continued. “It’s about two people who were friends, who worked together in the National Security Council, who were overheard talking about impeaching the president years in advance of a process that was created to get the impeachment going.

“To find out more about that, we can’t exclude them from testimony or from evidence. So I thought it was very important we were bringing forth this discussion,” he said.

Paul has a reputation as a disrupter in the Senate. He frequently forces members to take votes on unpopular proposals and uses procedural maneuvers to slow down the legislative process until he gets that vote.

He rarely scores policy wins, but the Libertarian-leaning conservative does often succeed in proving his point, primarily by refusing to stand down and getting coverage in the media.

Thursday was a case study in Paul’s strategy for getting attention — for himself and his causes.

Paul told reporters to watch the Senate floor at the start of that day’s impeachment trial business, signaling he would try a second time to force Roberts to read his question aloud on the floor.

Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., knew what was coming. At start of the Thursday session, he warned lawmakers to be “respectful of the chief justice’s unique position in reading our questions.

“I want to be able to continue to assure him that level of consideration will continue,” McConnell added.

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(Bryan Lowry contributed to this report.)

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©2020 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

How Rand Paul went from calling Donald Trump an 'orange windbag' to being a devout disciple .
Within three years, Paul shifted from calling Trump an "all blather" bully to attacking his political enemies throughout the impeachment saga. As the impeachment trial unfolded in the Senate, Paul put himself front and center as a chief defender of Trump, downplaying the seriousness of the proceedings by doing a crossword puzzle during early arguments and walking out on the trial after Chief Justice John Roberts rejected one of his questions because it was related to the identity of the whistleblower, whose allegations prompted the impeachment inquiry.

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