Mitch McConnell harps nonstop about how the Trump impeachment trial should follow the parameters laid down by the Clinton trial in 1998 — except where it comes to press coverage, which is tightly constrained, compared to twenty years ago. In fact, as the rules are presently laid out, the press has been relegated to spectators, who may end up watching the trial on television with the rest of us, rather than taking it down first hand. Egregious doesn’t even begin to cover this. Roll Call:
When the articles of impeachment are delivered to the Senate, a procession full of pomp and circumstance, just one video camera and no still photographers will be allowed to document the historic moment. No audio recording at all will be permitted, leaving radio reporters empty-handed.
During the trial, a single press pen will be set up on the second floor of the Senate, where lawmakers enter and exit the chamber. Reporters will be confined to the pen, unable to move with senators. No movement will be allowed outside the corrals, and reporters and photographers will need to be escorted to and from the pen. […]
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.
Credentialed members of the media, who go through security screening to enter the Capitol each day, will be screened a second time to enter the Senate chamber to watch the trial proceedings. Magnetometers will be set up in the Senate Daily Press Gallery, requiring reporters to enter the chamber one by one after being cleared by Capitol Police operating the machine.
This has the potential to cause delays and shape coverage of the impeachment trial itself. If reporters cannot enter and exit the chamber swiftly when news breaks or something important happens, it will likely become more convenient to simply watch the trial on television or the internet.
Some commentary from Politico Playbook:
WE WOULD BE REMISS not to speak out forcefully here about the restrictive rules being imposed on the Capitol Hill press corps for the pending impeachment trial. They are ridiculous. This is a big moment in American history, and the American people are getting shut out. […]
NYT’S CARL HULSE, a veteran Capitol Hill reporter for the New York Times, put it this way: “Pretty much an outrage. Either Senate Republican leadership has no interest in recording history or perhaps they just want to play down the coming events altogether.”
BEHIND THE SCENES, via Marianne LeVine: Sen. ROY BLUNT (R-Mo.) used a PowerPoint presentation at lunch Tuesday to show how access to the Senate side would work during the impeachment trial, an attendee told LeVine. The presentation had pictures of different entry and exit points, including locations for media. According to the attendee, Blunt joked that based on the information, members who wanted to avoid reporters could do so, while others who wanted to talk to the press would know where to go.
Avoiding reporters is precisely what’s wanted here. Republican Senators have a duty to their constituents and trying to skate out of it, rather than face it, is cowardice and it’s just plain wrong. Nevertheless, as you see, this is what they’re trying to pull.
— KLOBUCHAR post-debate told CBS: “No, I don’t support [the restrictions] and I have been in contact with both sides on this issue. I’ve made [that] very clear. I’ve talked with Sen. Blunt about this, that I thought we should have open access for the press.”
“I think this is a big mistake. I see no reason why you wouldn’t have an open hearing. I actually wanted to open the hearing more and allow laptops to be used in the press gallery. … I’m a staunch believer in the First Amendment, and I think this is wrong.” The clip
Just another variation of the It’s Okay If You’re A Republican double standard. In 1998 press coverage of the Clinton impeachment trial swamped the airwaves, now we’ll be lucky to get one camera on the proceedings and let’s hope nothing happens to it, or we’ll be limited to hearsay about what took place on any given day. I agree with the reporter from the New York Times, the Senate Republican majority wants to play down these historical events, rather than record them, for the good of the people and for posterity. Party above country one more time, what else is new? But what do you expect when the sitting president refers to the press as the “enemy of the people?” As one of Trump’s long departed aides noted, “the fish rots from the head down.”