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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 McConnellMcCarthy and Biden haven't spoken since election Democrats roll out legislation to expand Supreme Court Wall Street spent .9B on campaigns, lobbying in 2020 election: study MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer lays groundwork for future filibuster reform Holder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ Capitol Police officer killed in car attack lies in honor in Capitol Rotunda 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 TrumpBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Illinois House passes bill that would mandate Asian-American history lessons in schools Overnight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he MORE

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

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden nominates former NSA deputy director to serve as cyber czar | Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after all | Biden pressed on semiconductor production amid shortage Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after pushback from Klobuchar, Lee Lobbying world 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 BluntThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week Greitens Senate bid creates headache for GOP 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.