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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

CNN to Senate: Stop secret deliberations

January 29, 1999
Web posted at: 10:55 a.m. EDT (1055 GMT)

CNN Senate ad
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  • WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, January 29) -- In the aftermath of two closed-door impeachment trial sessions this week, Cable News Network on Friday formally requested that the U.S. Senate hold future deliberations in the open as it considers whether President Bill Clinton should be removed from office.

    Read the full document filed with the Senate

    CNN also ran advertisements in major U.S. newspapers urging that the impeachment proceedings be open.

    Secret deliberations on the perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges violate the public's constitutional right to know, CNN said in a written document that was being delivered to all 100 senators.

    The document, known in legal terms as an "application," is not a lawsuit and does not require a response.

    "The commands of the First Amendment ... are at war with closed-door impeachment deliberations," the application said.

    Citing four past U.S. Supreme Court rulings, it said: "The First Amendment creates a right for the public to attend and observe criminal trials and related judicial proceedings, absent the most extraordinary of circumstances."

    Twice this week, senators held closed-door sessions in the trial. The first, on Monday, was to deliberate whether to dismiss the charges.

    On Tuesday, senators considered in secret whether they would order witness depositions.

    On both occasions, the Senate's Republican majority voted against holding sessions in public.

    Text of the CNN advertisement

    The United States Senate has decided to debate one of the most important issues of our time in secret.

    Except for a declaration of war, no proceeding of the Senate has such historic implications as those which could lead to the removal from office of an American president.

    Conducting these debates behind closed doors denies people throughout the world the opportunity to judge the fairness of the proceedings and excludes firsthand information from being made available to the millions of American voters who have a vital stake in the trial's outcome.

    We urge the Senate to open the debates in light of the importance of what is at stake and the First Amendment values of open government that are so central to our democracy.

    Investigating the President


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