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McConnell wants to keep new impeachment testimony behind closed doors

Republicans repeatedly complained Democrats were conducting Trump’s impeachment inquiry with ‘zero transparency’ when they deposed witnesses behind closed doors.

By Emily Singer - January 21, 2020
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

During the House’s impeachment inquiry, Republicans raged about the process, condemning Democrats for holding witness interviews behind closed doors and even trying to dismiss the entire investigation because of it.

Donald Trump himself said the process had “zero transparency” because of the closed-door depositions. Republicans went as far as protesting the process by storming a secure area of the Capitol where the closed-door depositions were being held, a move that compromised national security.

However, under the impeachment trial rules crafted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, any potential impeachment witnesses would first need to be deposed behind closed doors — adopting a process the GOP attacked Democrats for using. The “Senate shall decide after deposition which witnesses shall testify, pursuant to the impeachment rules,” according to McConnell’s resolution.

Republicans are expected to vote to approve McConnell’s impeachment trial rules that include the closed-door deposition requirement on Tuesday afternoon. That means multiple GOP senators who condemned the House’s process will now be signing off on the very same procedures they previously criticized.

In fact, 50 Senate Republicans co-sponsored a resolution by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that “[condemned] the House of Representatives’ closed door impeachment inquiry.”

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said in a statement during the House impeachment inquiry that Democrats were “running a closed-door process that denies due process to President Trump.”

“This secretive approach allows House Democrats to selectively leak information that supports their political agenda of attacking President Trump at the expense of providing fairness to the President and transparency to the American people,” Tillis said in October.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said in a statement supporting the Graham resolution, “There’s a clear way to conduct an inquiry like this: In front of the public, with the minority having proper rights, with the accused having some basic fairness and due process.”

Ultimately, Democrats released all of the transcripts from the closed-door depositions they held in the impeachment inquiry. And the same people that were deposed behind closed doors later wound up testifying in public, meaning that the “secret” proceedings Republicans railed against weren’t so secret after all.

And now, Republicans also want to hold closed-door depositions — if Republicans consent to hearing from any witnesses at all. McConnell has said he does not want to hear from any witnesses and wants to acquit Trump quickly.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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