But the closed-door strategy runs counter to another goal Democrats have. The lack of televised hearings could limit their ability to capture attention and build voter support for the party’s case against Trump—which Pelosi had long made a prerequisite for pursuing impeachment in the first place. While public hearings haven’t always been a success for the Democrats since they won the House majority last year, they’re a potentially useful venue for compelling political theater…

What the process has done, however, is open the party up to criticism from Republicans that it’s running an overly secretive operation, including from those who have not marched in lockstep with Trump…

As for why the Democrats are holding hearings behind closed doors, Hoyer added, “We do not want to turn it into a circus.”

That is probably more compelling a reason than many Democrats would care to admit. The party saw firsthand the downside of televised hearings when the House Judiciary Committee called Trump’s pugnacious former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, to testify during the brief period when that panel had opened an impeachment probe. Bickering with members and stalling for time, Lewandowski tried to make a mockery of the proceedings. He largely succeeded in stymieing Democrats’ attempt to elicit useful information until the very end of the hearing, when a lawyer for the committee questioned him uninterrupted for a half hour.