Sources say Roberts was told an attempt to censor any questions about the whistleblower in general would be rebuked by recorded Senate vote, at which point Roberts retreated and communicated that he would instead censor any mention of the whistleblower's name.— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) January 30, 2020
UPDATE 1: As we know, Roberts has once again abused his power by obstructing a United States senator in the performance of his duties:
The suppression of one of the most important stories in Washington history--the impeachment "whistleblower"--is breathtaking. The Supreme Court has now joined Congress, the Washington press corps & social media (Facebook & Youtube) in the censorship-cum-cover-up. #BackInTheUSSR!— Paul Sperry (@paulsperry_) January 30, 2020
I suspect Roberts will end up regretting this.
UPDATE 2: Professor Jonathan Turley weighs in. If you got him to comment anonymously, I suspect he'd say that this wasn't a very smart move by Roberts--guarantees ill will on the part of the majority party in the Senate:
This creates a fascinating conflict. Federal law does not guarantee anonymity of such whistleblowers in Congress — only protection from retaliation. Conversely, the presiding officer rarely stands in the path of senators seeking clarification or information from the legal teams. Paul could name the whistleblower on the floor without violation federal law. Moreover, the Justice Department offered a compelling analysis that the whistleblower complaint was not in fact covered by the intelligence law (the reason for the delay in reporting the matter to Congress). The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel found that the complaint did not meet the legal definition of “urgent” because it treated the call between Trump and a head of state was if the president were an employee of the intelligence community. The OLC found that the call “does not relate to ‘the funding administration, or operation of an intelligence activity’ under the authority of the Director of National Intelligence . . . As a result, the statute does not require the Director to transmit the complaint to the congressional intelligence committees.” The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency Council strongly disagree with that reading.
Regardless of the merits of this dispute, Roberts felt that his position allows him to curtail such questions and answers as a matter of general decorum and conduct. It is certainly true that all judges are given some leeway in maintaining basic rules concerning the conduct and comments of participants in such “courts.”
This could lead to a confrontation over the right of senators to seek answers to lawful questions and the authority of the presiding office to maintain basic rules of fairness and decorum. It is not clear what the basis of the Chief Justice’s ruling would be in barring references to the name of the whistleblower if his status as a whistleblower is contested and federal law does not protect his name. Yet, there are many things that are not prohibited by law but still proscribed by courts. This issue however goes to the fact-finding interests of a senator who must cast a vote on impeachment. Unless Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can defuse the situation, this afternoon could force Roberts into a formal decision with considerable importance for this and future trials.
UPDATE 2: Scott Johnson comments on Roberts, CJ, obstructing a senator's questions--questions that were presented in the senator's legitimate fact finding function during an impeachment trial. First Rand Paul's tweets:
My question today is about whether or not individuals who were holdovers from the Obama National Security Council and Democrat partisans conspired with Schiff staffers to plot impeaching the President before there were formal House impeachment proceedings.
My exact question was:
Are you aware that House intelligence committee staffer Shawn Misko had a close relationship with Eric Ciaramella while at the National Security Council together 1/2
and are you aware and how do you respond to reports that Ciaramella and Misko may have worked together to plot impeaching the President before there were formal house impeachment proceedings. 2/2
To which Johnson adds:
Chief Justice Roberts inadvertently reminds us that we remain in Bananas territory (“a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham”).
With which I agree. Roberts, CJ, has publicly disgraced himself--not for the first time.