Washington — Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana wants to hear directly from witnesses at the center of the impeachment inquiry before making a final decision on whether President Trump's actions warrant his removal from office.
"I read somewhere that democracy dies in darkness. It ought to be public," Kennedy said on "Face the Nation" Sunday, referring to the inquiry's hearings, which have so far have been behind closed doors. "Both sides ought to be able to call their witnesses in front of God and country and the American people. And then let the American people decide. And the president and his counsel should be allowed to participate."
Complying with a resolution passed by House Democrats in late October, the Democratic-controlled committees leading the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump's attempts to pressure the Ukrainian government are planning to hold their first public hearing on Wednesday.
The resolution last month allows House Republicans to request their own witnesses in the Intelligence Committee, but Democratic lawmakers still have the final say.
Asked if any testimony would lead him to cast a vote in favor of removing Mr. Trump from office — a constitutional task for the Republican-controlled Senate — Kennedy said he would need to see and hear concrete evidence that demonstrates the president espoused a "culpable state of mind" and directly sought an investigation into a political opponent.
If Mr. Trump sought an anti-corruption probe that involved "someone who happens to be a political rival," that would not be impeachable, Kennedy added, but rather in the "national interest."
"If it can be demonstrated that the president asked for and had the requisite state of mind, that the president asked for an investigation of a political rival, that's over the line," he said.
Pressed if his "over the line" standard would constitute an impeachable offense, Kennedy replied, "Yeah, probably."