Trouble in Paradise? CNN Panel Condemns Warren for ‘Vicious’ Question to Roberts

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Less than an hour after CNN’s Situation Room host Wolf Blitzer conceded Thursday that “Democrats look like they’re in trouble,” the Erin Burnett OutFront panel lambasted CNN’s beloved 2020 Democrat and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for a question that many deemed over the line about the legitimacy of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Burnett first brought up the question as “a moment” from the afternoon session in which Roberts “appeared to show some emotion.”

 

 

Here was the question that Warren wrote that Roberts had to read aloud, which was then followed by a lengthy glare toward Warren’s side of the aisle before lead House Impeachment Manager Adam Schiff (D-CA) came to his defense (click “expand”):

ROBERTS: At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution? [ROBERTS STARES AT WARREN]

SCHIFF: Senator, I would not say that it contributes to a loss of confidence in the chief justice. I think the chief justice has presided admirably. 

The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis tweeted afterward that there was “[p]retty universal bewilderment in and around the chamber as to what point Sen. Warren was trying to make by her question about the trial contributing to a ‘loss of legitimacy’ for Roberts/SCOTUS. Schiff wanted nothing to do with it.”

Burnett reacted to the clip by observing “that extra moment...was just significant” in being “meaningful to him.” In other words, not exactly a ringing endorsement of Warren and thus quite the opposite.

Just Security’s Ryan Goodman went first, knocking Warren as having “used” Roberts “as a vehicle because he has no choice but to read the words, so it made for that moment, so I thought it was right for what Adam Schiff did to try to then bolster him...because I don't think that's necessarily playing fair for him to be put into that situation.”

Goodman added that, considering the discussion about the possibility of something massive like a 50-50 tie over witnesses, Warren’s stunt “didn’t play well and the real question is like now what will his role otherwise be cause we shouldn’t put him into that kind of a position.”

Burnett then tried to pivot to wondering to conservative CNN political commentator Scott Jennings about which way Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) could lean. 

Jennings answered Burnett about Alexander, but he too sounded off on Warren’s “ridiculous” and “vicious” behavior (click “expand”):

Well, look, I think that Lamar Alexander is obviously still trying to make up his mind about what he wants to do and — but I think he's also one of the most thoughtful and most respected members of the Senate. So, I thought — I — I — I trust Lamar Alexander — we know whatever he does here, I think he's going to go down in history as one of the greatest senators from Tennessee and one of the greatest Republican senators of all time and I trust his judgment. 

On the question, by the way, from Elizabeth Warren, I thought that was ridiculous to hector pressure the chief justice of the United States with that political question. That was a question written by someone who’s running for president who doesn't know any other way except to sort of be, you know, I thought rather vicious in the way she was raising the specter of his illegitimacy. I — I — I don’t — I agree with the way Schiff answered it, by the way. I thought he handled it perfectly and I thought that question was out of bounds. 

A day after he described an argument by Trump defense team lawyer Alan Dershowitz as akin to a justification for “genocide” by “authoritarian people” like Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, even liberal political commentator Joe Lockhart wasn’t keen on Warren’s question: “I agree. I don’t think — I think it put him in a very tough position, and it didn’t do the Democrats any favors by putting him in that position. He's going to make up his mind based on what he thinks.”

To see the relevant transcript from CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront on January 30, click “expand.”

CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront
January 29, 2020
7:09 p.m. Eastern

ERIN BURNETT: Now to this point, Ryan, there was a moment. You know, it’s the chief justice, it’s this odd thing, literally these very formal, little index cards. The cards — the questions are written on them and the senator stands up and says I have a question for the House managers or the Trump team and then Chief Justice Roberts reads it. So on this issue, right, we're talking about a possible tie and will Chief Justice Roberts see it as his job to step in and break that tie? I thought this was an interesting moment. He appeared to show some emotion. This was a question from Senator Warren and she asked about how the trial is going to affect Americans' view of the entire government system and particularly the Supreme Court. Here's the chief justice. 

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution? [ROBERTS STARES AT WARREN]

CONGRESSMAN ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Senator, I would not say that it contributes to a loss of confidence in the chief justice. I think the chief justice has presided admirably. 

BURNETT: There was that extra moment when he was done reading that question that I thought was just significant. Hard to tell. He doesn't — he doesn’t let anything show on his face, but it seemed meaningful to him. 

RYAN GOODMAN: I would think that it would and in some ways he is being used as a vehicle because he has no choice but to read the words —

BURNETT: Right.

GOODMAN: — so it made for that moment, so I thought it was right for what Adam Schiff did to try to then bolster him in a certain sense because I don't think that's necessarily playing fair for him to be put into that situation and we're talking about really grave questions that he's about to maybe face like do I do something as significant as breaking a 50/50 tie. That's the enormity of the situation. So, to use him in that way, I thought, didn’t play well and the real question is like now what will his role otherwise be cause we shouldn’t put him into that kind of a position and — yeah. 

BURNETT: Yeah. It — it is such an important moment he's going to have possibly if that happens, but just, you know, his role on this is significant. Scott, he also, of course, had to read that question from Lamar Alexander that Phil Mattingly was talking about, right, where — where every trying to read into what will Lamar Alexander do, right? He's that crucial person. He could be the person that causes a tie and hopefully no one will shy away from that if they think it’s the right thing to do. What did you read into that question that he submitted along with other senators, including Ted Cruz? 

SCOTT JENNINGS: Well, look, I think that Lamar Alexander is obviously still trying to make up his mind about what he wants to do and — but I think he's also one of the most thoughtful and most respected members of the Senate. So, I thought — I — I — I trust Lamar Alexander — we know whatever he does here, I think he's going to go down in history as one of the greatest senators from Tennessee and one of the greatest Republican senators of all time and I trust his judgment. On the question, by the way, from Elizabeth Warren, I thought that was ridiculous to hector pressure the chief justice of the United States with that political question. That was a question written by someone who’s running for president who doesn't know any other way except to sort of be, you know, I thought rather vicious in the way she was raising the specter of his illegitimacy. I — I — I don’t — I agree with the way Schiff answered it, by the way. I thought he handled it perfectly and I thought that question was out of bounds. 

BURNETT: Joe. 

JOE LOCKHART: Yeah, I agree. I don’t think — I think it put him in a very tough position, and it didn’t do the Democrats any favors by putting him in that position. He's going to make up his mind based on what he thinks.

NB Daily 2020 Presidential Judiciary Congress Trump Impeachment CNN Erin Burnett OutFront Video Joe Lockhart Erin Burnett Adam Schiff John Roberts (Justice) Elizabeth Warren
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