Impeachment hearing: What does 'pettifogger’ mean?

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts admonished the House managers and president Trump’s attorneys early Wednesday morning as the presentation on both sides took a nasty turn.

Following accusations of a cover-up launched by House manager Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-New York, Roberts took a moment to tell both sides that the arguments needed to remain civil in the world’s “greatest deliberative body.”

“It is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Roberts said.

“One reason it has earned that title is because its members avoid speaking in a manner and using language that is not conducive to civil discourse,” he said.

The chief justice then recounted a story from a 1905 Senate impeachment trial in which a senator objected to a House manager using the word “pettifogging.” The presiding officer at the trial agreed, Roberts said, that “the word ought not to have been used.”

“I don’t think we need to aspire to that high standard, but I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are,” he said.

The word may not be familiar to many. Pettifogging means “placing undue emphasis on petty details.”

In other words, being petty.

Here is the exchange:

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