Fight escalates over planned impeachment press restrictions

The fight over potentially major restrictions on press access to the upcoming Senate impeachment trial escalated Wednesday as a second group of reporters formally asked Senate leaders to intervene.

“Speculative security worries must not override the ability of journalists to perform their jobs on Capitol Hill,” the Executive Committee of Periodical Correspondents wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFlorida Democrat hits administration over small business loan rollout The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Dybul interview; Boris Johnson update Schumer says nation will 'definitely' need new coronavirus relief bill MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer names coronavirus czar candidates in plea to White House Democrats struggle to keep up with Trump messaging on coronavirus Schumer: Fired inspector general will be remembered as a 'hero' MORE (D-N.Y.).

The committee is a group of reporters who represent and advocate for credentialed media in the Senate periodical press gallery.

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The letter represents the latest pushback from reporters over a potential crackdown on press access during the Senate’s impeachment trial of President TrumpDonald John TrumpOvernight Health Care: US hits 10,000 coronavirus deaths | Trump touts 'friendly' talk with Biden on response | Trump dismisses report on hospital shortages as 'just wrong' | Cuomo sees possible signs of curve flattening in NY We need to be 'One America,' the polling says — and the politicians should listen Barr tells prosecutors to consider coronavirus risk when determining bail: report MORE

The Standing Committee of Correspondents on Tuesday also sent a letter to McConnell and Schumer protesting the planned restrictions.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBiden hosts potential VP pick Gretchen Whitmer on podcast Why Gretchen Whitmer's stock is rising with Team Biden Biden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats MORE (Minn.), the top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee and a 2020 presidential candidate, told CBS on Tuesday night that she opposes the restrictions and has made her concerns known to Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP senators begin informal talks on new coronavirus stimulus Five things being discussed for a new coronavirus relief bill Hillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike MORE (R-Mo.).

"No, I don't support it, and I have been in contact with both sides on this issue," she said. "I made it very clear, I talked to Sen. Blunt about this: I think we should have open access for the press."

The letter from the Periodical Committee said the plans, which include confining reporters to a single press pen and placing a magnetometer – which will require reporters to enter the chamber one by one after being screened by Capitol Police – within their primary workspace “will hinder journalists’ ability to fully and fairly perform their duties to inform the public of this historic event.” 

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“Any plan that blocks reporters from continuing conversations with senators is an unacceptable break from normal operations,” the committee wrote. “Any attempt to pen reporters away from lawmakers can only be viewed as a move to limit the public scrutiny of chamber proceedings.”

The Senate is not expected to hold a formal vote on the press restrictions as part of its process for establishing the impeachment rules, and not every Republican is on board with the restrictions. 

Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) on Wednesday called the plans a "huge mistake,” adding that he does not "support" the proposed restrictions. 

"If the media is limited to a specific geographical area so people can avoid them — we're not children. We're grown men and grown women. ... I just think that sends the wrong message," he said.