ACLU Says a Closed Impeachment Debate is Unfair to the American Public

January 25, 1999 12:00 am

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Monday, January 25, 1999

WASHINGTON — The Senate’s vote to hold deliberations over a motion to dismiss the impeachment trial of President Clinton in a private, closed door session met with harsh criticism today from the American Civil Liberties Union.

“An open legislative process is a fundamental requirement of our democracy. Secretive closed-door decision-making is a hallmark of totalitarian governments,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office. “This Senate is contemplating the legislative overturning of a presidential election. Now is not the time to abandon a basic democratic principle.”

The motion to open its debate on dismissing the obstruction of justice and perjury charges against President Clinton lost on a 57-43 vote late today. The ACLU applauded Senators Harkin and Wellstone, the primary architects of the proposal to hold open deliberations.

Murphy also reiterated the ACLU’s earlier call to the Senate to ensure that all aspects of the trial and its deliberations be fully accessible to the public and televised. At the beginning of the Senate impeachment trial, the ACLU’s Board of Directors issued a statement urging the Senate to remember that “the public has a right to be ‘present at this grave, profound and unique event which brings the whole of the constitutional scheme under scrutiny. Moreover, television would have the primary benefit of illustrating to the nation at large the fairness of the procedures used in the trial.”

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