WASHINGTON—Chief Justice John Roberts closed 2019 by decrying the corrosive effect “rumor and false information,” spread instantly by social media, can inflict on democracy, declaring that Americans must pass on not only a functioning government but also “the tools to understand and improve it.”

With a presidential election year about to begin—and the chief justice himself likely to oversee the impeachment trial of President Trump—the 2019 report sought to recall the lasting strengths and perpetual vulnerabilities of the constitutional…

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