News and Commentary

Senate To Limit Press Coverage Of Impeachment Trial That Almost No One Was Going To Watch Anyway
Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, and U.S. President Donald Trump, right, participate in a listening session on youth vaping and electronic cigarettes in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019.
Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The only people that were really going to watch President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate were reporters and die-hard Trump haters privileged enough to not have to work.

So, naturally, journalists “are up in arms,” as The New York Times reported, about not getting free rein inside the Capitol building during the impeachment trial, which they themselves baited House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) into starting. As the Times noted, however, Republican Senate leadership hasn’t even written down the rules for coverage yet, but reporters don’t need much to get them outraged at Republicans.

“Even sedate C-Span is aggrieved, calling on the Senate to allow its television crews to document the trial, instead of the government-controlled cameras that — as was the case during Bill Clinton’s trial 21 years ago — will limit what viewers see and hear inside the Senate chamber,” the Times reported.

NPR reported that the “restrictive new ground rules” that confine reporters “to small cordoned-off sections in areas where unrestricted access was typically standard.” Reporters also will not be allowed to walk with senators for interviews even if the senator wants to talk. Finally, reporters will not be allowed to “approach senators for interviews in the halls surrounding the Senate chamber.”

The Times painted the rules as a threat to the free press and, of course, democracy itself.

“There’s long been this understanding that we both serve the same people at the end of the day, and that it’s a mutually beneficial relationship,” Sarah Wire, a Los Angeles Times reporter, told The New York Times. “Senators want to talk to us because they know we’re communicating their message to their voters back home.”

Senators don’t need reporters to communicate their message to voters. They have their own platforms to do this. The press is no longer some gatekeeper to information, no matter how much they like to tell that to themselves.

The Times suggested the reason for the restriction may be valid due to the presence of Chief Justice John Roberts, who will be presiding over the trial.

“Typically, reporters’ movements in the Capitol are limited when high-profile people visit, like Vice President Mike Pence,” the Times contended.

Impeachment proceedings began after the media reported a “whistleblower” raised serious concerns over a phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. The whistleblower claimed Trump demanded a quid pro quo from Zelensky in exchange for U.S. aid. Pelosi announced they would start an impeachment inquiry soon after news of the whistleblower’s complaint broke. A day later, the White House released the transcript of the phone call, which showed no such quid pro quo.

Democrats then started claiming Trump bribed Zelensky into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, who is running for president, and his son, Hunter for their Ukraine dealings while the elder Biden was part of the Obama administration. Bribery, however, was not included in the articles of impeachment that Pelosi sent to the senate nearly a month after the House of Representatives voted on the allegedly urgent threat to our nation.