The Current

Putting Trump impeachment inquiry on TV allows public to see the facts up close: former congresswoman

We bring you our guide to the impeachment inquiry: how did we get here, what to expect from proceedings, and what to listen for as key witnesses take the stand.

Elizabeth Holtzman worked on Watergate investigation in 1970s

Elizabeth Holtzman in 2018. The former congresswoman said the most important thing is for the witnesses in the impeachment inquiry to be heard first-hand. (Hans Pennink/The Associated Press)
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Televising the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump is important because the American public needs to see the facts "firsthand," according to a former Democratic congresswoman.

"If the Democrats want to persuade the American people to support an impeachment effort, it's going to have to be like Watergate, in which the American people got to see witnesses up close," said Elizabeth Holtzman, a former Democratic congresswoman and author of The Case for Impeaching Trump.

In the 1970s, Holtzman served on the House Judiciary Committee charged with investigating the Watergate scandal. 

She told The Current's interim host Laura Lynch that because those hearings were public, "people got to see the witnesses, judge their sincerity, judge their credibility, understand the narrative — and that's vital." 

A protest in Chicago against a visit to the city by U.S. President Donald Trump, Oct. 28, 2019. (Max Herman/Reuters)

Holtzman pointed out that Robert Mueller's investigation into whether Trump colluded with Russian election interference happened behind closed doors, so the American people "heard about the facts secondhand."

"The most important thing is for the witnesses to be heard firsthand, and for the American people to find them credible," she said.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the formal impeachment inquiry into Trump in September.

It's alleged Trump asked Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son in a bid to help his own reelection, and held back $391 million in military aid for the country as leverage.

The inquiry enters a new phase today, as the hearings go public and will be streamed live on TV.

These are the steps that could lead to U.S. President Donald Trump's removal from office. 3:27

In Washington D.C., bars are opening early to show proceedings on big screens, and serving impeachment-themed cocktails such as the "Subpoena Colada," and "James and the Giant Impeachment."

To discuss what to expect from proceedings, and what to listen for as key witnesses take the stand, Lynch spoke to:

  • Elizabeth Holtzman, former Democratic congresswoman from New York, who served on the House Judiciary Committee charged with investigating the Watergate scandal.
  • Robert Ray, a former federal prosecutor and Independent Counsel for the Whitewater investigation.
  • Lyndsay Duncombe, CBC's Senior Washington Editor

Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Ben Jamieson and Howard Goldenthal.

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