Senate restrictions on impeachment press coverage draw backlash

Source: The Hill | January 14, 2020 | Nathanel Weixel and J. Edward Moreno

Reports of a planned crackdown on media access to the upcoming Senate impeachment trial of President Trump is drawing fierce criticism from members of the press.

The Standing Committee of Correspondents, a group of reporters who represent and advocate for credentialed media in the Senate daily press gallery, sent a forceful letter Tuesday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), decrying the possible restrictions.

The restrictions, which the committee said potentially include confining reporters to a single press pen on the second floor of the Senate, threaten to curtail reporters’ access to senators during a historic impeachment trial.

On a normal day, reporters are free to try to talk with senators outside the Senate chamber, in the basement, or in the hallways of the Capitol.

“Capitol Hill is one of the most accessible places in Washington, but the proposed restrictions exceed those put in place during the State of the Union, Inauguration Day, or even during the Clinton impeachment trial 20 years ago,” the Committee wrote.

They sent a separate, identical letter to Senate Rules Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and ranking member Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who is also running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The gallery committee said they had tried to work with the Rules Committee and the Senate’s Sergeant-at-Arms, but every suggestion they made was rejected “without an explanation of how the restrictions contribute to safety rather than simply limit coverage of the trial.”

“These potential restrictions fail to acknowledge what currently works on Capitol Hill, or the way the American public expects to be able to follow a vital news event about their government in the digital age,” the letter said.

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