The real reason the House impeachment testimony is taking place behind closed doors (for the moment)

Donald Trump’s former National Security Council official Fiona Hill testified to the House impeachment inquiry on Monday, after Trump’s former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch did the same late last week. Both testified behind closed doors, meaning the public hasn’t yet been informed on what these two key witnesses revealed about Trump’s whistleblower scandal. There’s a reason for this – but the hearings won’t remain private for too much longer.

U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, a Trump ally, is now making clear that he intends to throw Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani under the bus in order to try to clear his own name. Why? He has no choice. It’s widely presumed that Yovanovitch and Hill provided the House impeachment inquiry with testimony and evidence against Sondland – but because their testimony was in private, he doesn’t know what they’ve given up on him.

That makes it nearly impossible for Sondland to go into the hearing and simply lie about everything, because for all he knows, the House could already be sitting on evidence that proves he’s lying, in which case he’d have a perjury indictment waiting for him once Trump is gone. Sondland’s only shot is to tell the truth, cooperate as thoroughly as possible, and hope that his cooperation ends up being enough to save him from ultimately being indicted for his role in the Ukraine scandal.

These closed door hearings also prevent Donald Trump from easily finding out what the House impeachment inquiry is learning about him, which makes it difficult for him to run counter-programming. Team Trump is so desperate to know what’s being said in these hearings, one of Trump’s goons tried to sit in on Monday’s testimony, and Adam Schiff quickly threw him out.

It’s crucial that the hearings remain private for now, because the secrecy and uncertainly will only serve to prompt more people to come clean. Schiff is a former prosecutor and he understands that this is how building a criminal case works. That said, as soon as it’s safe to let the public in on what’s been revealed, the House will do precisely that. Impeachment poll numbers are rising by the day as it is. Once the House can release these testimony transcripts and start laying it all out, those numbers will go even higher.

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