As President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate looms, Chief Justice John Roberts, the man who will preside over the proceedings, put out a New Year’s Eve message calling for the judiciary to defend democracy and seek equal justice.

Right now, Republican senators are conspiring to rig the impeachment trial in Trump’s favor despite the damning evidence and witness testimony.

While most Republicans and Trump’s most hardcore supporters apparently don’t have a problem with that, Roberts most likely will.

In an annual report on the state of the judiciary from the local level to the federal level, Roberts didn’t even mention Trump’s name when he took aim at false information being spread on social media, which is why he followed up by urging judges to protect the independent judiciary that has existed in our country since the adoption of the Constitution.

“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,” he wrote.

Roberts went on to warn that constitutional principles have “no place for mob violence” no matter how much Trump and his supporters are frothing at the mouth for bloody revolts if they don’t get their way.

Recently, Trump has nominated judicial appointees who oppose the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling by the Supreme Court that ended segregation in public schools.

So, it’s not a coincidence that Roberts would choose to highlight this ruling as a vital example of the virtues of civic education while pointing out that the ruling was unanimous.

Chief Justice Earl Warren illustrated the power of a judicial decision as a teaching tool in Brown v. Board of Education, the great school desegregation case. His unanimous opinion on the most pressing issue of the era was a mere 11 pages—short enough that newspapers could publish all or almost all of it and every citizen could understand the Court’s rationale. Today, federal courts post their opinions online, giving the public instant access to the reasoning behind the judgments that affect their lives.

So, even if Trump’s judges vote to overturn the landmark ruling, it appears Roberts would be the swing vote to swat away any challenge by the racist elements of his party.

Roberts concluded his message by calling upon the judiciary to defend democracy and seek equal justice, a message that could just as well be aimed at Senate Republicans as they collude against justice and Trump himself for attacking judges who don’t decide in his favor.

Each generation has an obligation to pass on to the next, not only a fully functioning government responsive to the needs of the people, but the tools to understand and improve it. I ask my judicial colleagues to continue their efforts to promote public confidence in the judiciary, both through their rulings and through civic outreach. We should celebrate our strong and independent judiciary, 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. As the New Year begins, and we turn to the tasks before us, we should each resolve to do our best to maintain the public’s trust that we are faithfully discharging our solemn obligation to
equal justice under law.

Trump currently has several challenges being heard by the federal courts. One such case could force him to release his tax returns and another could result in his top officials having to comply with subpoenas to testify and hand over documents.

If Roberts is serious about his New Year’s Eve message, it could be an indication that he may rule against Trump, thereby siding with the liberal wing of the court to deliver majority decisions that proclaim once and for all that the president is not above the law.

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