The letter — addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) — said Capitol security officials are considering measures that are all but certain to make it harder for journalists to report on the trial and question senators about their actions.
A magnetometer in the Senate press gallery will require reporters to trickle into the chamber one at a time. Electronic devices will be banned, leaving reporters to scuttle in and out of the room to send tweets and emails. Reporters will be placed in pens, roping them off and restricting their ability to speak freely with senators as they enter and exit.
“Currently,” Wire tweeted, “we can walk with Senators as they enter the chamber, wait for them outside of meetings or lunches. It leads to a diversity of voices. Penning us means people across the country might not hear from their senator.”
Officials have also proposed limiting video coverage of the arrival of the articles of impeachment to a single pool camera with no audio, she said.
“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 committee’s letter read.
Details about the nature and scope of the restrictions under consideration remained unclear, as neither the Senate sergeant at arms nor the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, which are responsible for them, has issued a formal document.
“You’ll have to decide where’s the best place to watch; it’s like watching a football game,” Blunt said. “Where’s the best place to watch it?”
Blunt told the Star that while most of the trial will be broadcast, other segments will be closed, in line with procedures during the trial of President Bill Clinton in early 1999. “I mean closed session,” he said. “I mean there will be nobody there but senators and essential staff. No cameras, no C-SPAN, no coverage.”
He said that “part of the decision about access” for reporters to senators “will be driven by how quickly you can clear the room” for the closed sessions, “so you can have that debate and get people back into the room so you can move forward.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), the top Democrat on the Rules Committee, called the restrictions “a big mistake” in comments to reporters after Tuesday night’s Democratic candidate debate in Des Moines, where she is campaigning for the party’s presidential nomination.
“We should have open access for the press,” she said to CBS News.
The correspondents’ committee said members raised concerns with the sergeant at arms and the Rules Committee. “But decisions are being made quickly as plans for the trial are completed,” the letter read, “and we are hearing that nearly every suggestion has been rejected without an explanation of how the restrictions contribute to safety rather than simply limit coverage of the trial.”
News of the restrictions prompted alarm online from reporters, with some protesting the move as one that will effectively shield senators from scrutiny during the trial.