televised trial

NOTICE: The views expressed in The Vermilion's opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect those of The Vermilion staff or of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

For many people, myself included, there is an inherent desire within to “check up on” the government that reigns over us. Whether it be watching cable news, listening to the radio, browsing twitter, eavesdropping on others in a restaurant, talking with friends or some unholy combination thereof, we all get political information from somewhere, and these sources all have different levels of validity and objectivity. Personally, I prefer to read my news rather than have some talking heads yelling at me about what is good or bad or sad. My favorite news mediums are the papers The Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post and The New York Times, and I typically read them for about two hours a day, split between morning and evening.

But I have to confess that I am not a paper purist and do in fact watch videos to get information. I do not watch cable news like Fox or CNN, nor do I watch online channels that are essentially opinion pieces like PragerU. Instead, I prefer to watch videos that give context to what I read and do so in an objective way. The best network to get that type of coverage is the unedited footage that comes from C-SPAN. For those unfamiliar, C-SPAN is a network that provides a live feed of the goings on in Washington. They do some short commentary when there is not much happening during a legislative session, but otherwise their footage is of the politicians as it happens in its unedited glory.

C-SPAN has been providing coverage of Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court since 1979, and so has a wealth of stored sessions, events and cases that can be accessed for free. I really love it as a supplement to my reading as I get to see exactly what was said, who said it, how they said it and to whom they said it to. Historical proceedings, like the passage of certain bills or decisions of certain cases, are especially interesting to watch, because you get to see history unfold before you.

You can probably guess from my tone that I like the work C-SPAN does and that the absence of it during a particularly affecting political event would make me extremely suspicious. As it turns out, my suspicions are warranted as that is exactly what is happening on Jan. 21 when the impeachment trial against President Trump begins. On that Tuesday, a historic event the likes of which has only ever been seen two other times will unfold, and might end up actually being unseen.

Although C-SPAN provides an amazing — and sadly underutilized — service to the public, it is a private company and not owned by the government, thus allowing congress to turn the cameras off at any time they want. Usually congress “goes dark” only when they are dealing with classified and national security information, but this case is different. As The New York Times pointed out, the senators “argue that closed-session deliberations are the only opportunity senators have during an impeachment trial, when the Senate’s rules compel them to stay silent, to actually discuss a dispute or argue an issue.” So cutting off the public from the proceedings is not due to concerns over containing classified information, but to deliberate on impeachment without the public’s knowledge as to what is being said.

I absolutely disagree with this line of thinking. Closed sessions would only lend credence to conspirators, skeptics and connivers. The New York Times mentions this as well, “lawmakers said any move to limit the public’s ability to follow the course of events is likely to fuel skepticism about what the Senate is up to and whether the Republican majority is trying to protect Mr. Trump from embarrassing disclosures.” Even the president wants an open trial, though his reasoning being that he would like broadcasted in every home in America an acquittal by the Republican majority.

An open trial is the most direct and accountable option. It affords the people at home to see their elected officials doing their jobs as they are supposed to, or not. In a time as delicate as this when senators like Mitch McConnell openly admit to defying their oath to be impartial jurors, documenting the betrayal is a must. Dramatic and Constitution-testing processes like this impeachment need to be documented in their entirety.

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