The Senate sergeant-at-arms and Capitol Police are rolling out an aggressive plan to keep the press away from senators and otherwise limit reporting during the impeachment trial of Donald Trump. Reporters will be required to undergo significant additional security screening, restricted to a single press pen, and banned from a hallway where they often interview lawmakers.
Roll Call reports that “The Standing Committee of Correspondents, which represents journalists credentialed in the daily press galleries in the House and Senate, has come out forcefully against the planned restrictions that it says rejected every suggestion made by the correspondents ‘without an explanation of how the restrictions contribute to safety rather than simply limit coverage of the trial.’”
The additional security screening may cause delays that will prevent reporters from quickly leaving the Senate chamber to report on developments in the trial—electronic devices are already banned from the press area, so reporters have to be able to leave and return quickly to file reports. The Standing Committee of Correspondents objected to the installation of magnetometers, which will force journalists to wait to be screened one by one, saying that “There is no additional safety or security brought by bringing such a device into reporter work space 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.”
As during Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing, reporters will also be banned from the hallway where they frequently find and interview—or try to interview—senators. According to Roll Call, “At the time, Capitol Police officers said the large media presence was causing a ‘life safety issue’ for lawmakers, despite the hallway being closed to anyone besides lawmakers, staff and credentialed press—in other words, a dynamic that exists every day in the Capitol.”
The level of security being imposed, and the restrictions on press, far outstrip those imposed during the Clinton impeachment trial. It’s almost like the current Senate wants more protection from the free press.