KEY POINTS

  • The Senate is imposing unprecedented press restrictions during the Trump impeachment trial
  • Reporters and photographers will be confined to a single press pen
  • The rules are drawing sharp criticism from press advocates

As the Senate gets set to try President Donald Trump for two Articles of Impeachment, its Sargent at Arms is imposing unprecedented crackdowns on press access that are raising the ire of ardent press corps advocates.

Roll Call reports that the restrictions will be enacted following a heated standoff between the Capitol’s chief security officials, Senate Rules Chairman Roy Blunt and the standing committees of correspondents, which represent journalists credentialed in the daily press galleries in the House and Senate. They appear to regard the members of the press with whom Senators regularly interact, and generally have a favorable relationship, as threats to the security of lawmakers and Senate staffers.

Two of the most eyebrow-raising restrictions include additional security screenings and severely limited movement of the press during the trial. When the actual Articles of Impeachment are delivered to the Senate, documentation of the historic will be limited to a single video camera. No audio reporting or photography will be allowed. During the trial, reporters and photographers will be confined to a single press pen and will not be permitted to exit without an escort. They will be unable to move with Senators as they do during the day-to-day Senate goings-on.

The new restrictions, which are decided tighter compared to the Clinton impeachment proceedings, are drawing sharp criticism from the Standing Committee.

“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 said in a letter.

Ranking Republican Senator Roy Blunt went so far as to say that the maneuvering of journalists is a “legitimate concern.” Similar restrictions were put in place during the highly contentious confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

As he is about the face an impeachment trial, US President Donald Trump will be able to tout a trade deal with China As he is about the face an impeachment trial, US President Donald Trump will be able to tout a trade deal with China Photo: AFP / Nicholas Kamm