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 McConnellSchumer: Trump's team made case for new witnesses 'even stronger' Trump, Democrats risk unintended consequences with impeachment arguments CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president Impeachment has been a dud for Democrats Trump insults Democrats, calls on followers to watch Fox News ahead of impeachment trial MORE (D-N.Y.).

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

ADVERTISEMENT

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 TrumpKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Louise Linton, wife of Mnuchin, deletes Instagram post in support of Greta Thunberg MORE

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

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharDes Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial Moore defends Sanders's reputation: 'We don't want the fake, and the phony and the fraudulent' 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 BluntMeadows says Trump told him he didn't threaten senators on impeachment vote Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment Trump team to present case for about two hours on Saturday 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.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

“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.