Democratic senator blasts 'draconian' press restrictions during impeachment trial

Democratic senator blasts 'draconian' press restrictions during impeachment trial
© Greg Nash

Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenate report says Obama officials were 'not well-postured' to respond to Russian hacking Democratic senators ask banks to prohibit funding Arctic drilling Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle MORE (D-N.M.) on Tuesday blasted “draconian” restrictions on the press during the Senate’s impeachment trial of President TrumpDonald John TrumpFed saw risks to US economy fading before coronavirus spread quickened Pro-Trump super PAC hits Biden with new Spanish-language ad in Nevada Britain announces immigration policy barring unskilled migrants MORE.

“Preventing credentialed reporters from moving freely around the Capitol and confining them to roped-off areas limits their ability to interview lawmakers about the impeachment proceedings. These restrictions are antithetical to a free press, good governance, and the ability of the public to be fully informed about what we as elected leaders do in their name,” Henrich wrote in a letter to Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger.

“The American people expect and deserve a level of transparency and access to information about the government. The draconian restrictions placed on the Capitol press corps for the impeachment trial should be modified in a way that better balances access and security,” he wrote.

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“Hindering a free and open press is a disservice to the public and further undermines a fair process that is reflective of our American values,” Heinrich added.

Reporters have been kept in pens in the Capitol’s Ohio Clock corridor and Reception Room, allowing senators to exit the Senate chamber for meeting rooms or private offices without speaking to reporters during the impeachment trial.

A magnetometer has also been added to the Senate’s Daily Press Gallery to ensure that reporters aren't bringing phones or recorders into the Senate chamber, and the Senate sergeant-at-arms has authorized a heavy police presence in the nearby hallways.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBarr to testify before House Judiciary panel Graham won't call Barr to testify over Roger Stone sentencing recommendation Roger Stone witness alleges Trump targeted prosecutors in 'vile smear job' MORE (D-N.Y.) has said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKentucky state official says foreign adversaries 'routinely' scan election systems Don't let 'welfare for all' advocates derail administration's food stamp program reforms Whistleblower retaliation: Stop confusing unlawful attacks with politics MORE (R-Ky.) did not consult him about the restrictions. However, a Senate source told The Hill that “everyone was made aware ahead of time as to what the plan would be.”

The Standing Committee of Correspondents blasted the restrictions last week, saying, "Capitol Hill is one of the most accessible places in Washington, but the proposed restrictions exceed those put in place during the State of the Union, Inauguration Day, or even during the Clinton impeachment trial 20 years ago."