The Senate sergeant-at-arms and Capitol Police are imposing unprecedented restrictions on the press corps for the impeachment trial in the Senate of President Donald Trump.


Senate Rules Chairman Roy Blunt risibly claims that the restrictions are for safety, but in practice it amounts to an effort to squelch the ability of the free press to cover the trial.

The Standing Committee of Correspondents, which represents credentialed journalists in the press galleries in the House and Senate and helps supervise the gallery’s operation, sent a letter to to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer strenuously objecting to the restrictions.


“The restrictions being put in place keep reporters from fulfilling their constitutional obligation to inform the public about what elected officials are doing on their behalf,” wrote Sarah D. Wire, the chair of the standing committee and a reporter for the L.A. Times (Wire was previously the Capitol beat reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette).

The standing committee had been in negotiations with officials and staff for months about enhanced security for a Senate trial, but said their concerns and questions were ignored. “[N]early every suggestion has been rejected without an explanation of how the restrictions contribute to safety rather than simply limit coverage of the trial,” Wire wrote in the letter.


The new rules exceed those in place during events such as the State of the Union, Supreme Court confirmation hearings, and the Inauguration. None were in place during the Clinton impeachment.

Roll Call runs down some of the restrictions: Just one video camera, no still photographers, and no audio recording will be permitted when the articles of impeachment are delivered to the Senate; a single press pen will be set up on the second floor of the Senate, where reporters will be confined and unable to move with senators; additional byzantine security screening to enter the Senate chamber will be in place, likely to cause severe delays for reporters attempting to do their jobs.

Roll Call explains:

No movement will be allowed outside the corrals, and reporters and photographers will need to be escorted to and from the pen. … In the course of a day on Capitol Hill, many senators stop and talk or walk and talk as reporters gather around to catch the latest comment. … Journalists’ time-honored practice of “strolling” with lawmakers — the walking, talking and relationship-building considered necessary by many resident reporters in the Capitol — is one that the new security apparatus will squelch during the trial.

Given the inevitable delays entering or exiting the chamber for reporters, the press asked for a temporary exemption from the standard rule banning electronics such as laptops or cell phones, but were rebuffed.


“There is no additional safety or security” brought by the new rules, Wire wrote in the committee’s letter, “and gives the impression that it is being done mostly to protect Senators from the bright light of the public knowing what they are doing in one of the country’s most important moments.”

Wire also took to social media to express the committee’s objections: