The top Democrat on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee expressed vehement opposition to new press access restrictions planned for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota was in Iowa on Tuesday to participate in a Democratic presidential debate ahead of the state’s first in the nation caucuses, but it was clear that she was keeping track of the decision-making about the Senate operations during the upcoming trial.
Klobuchar said she had discussed the matter with Rules and Administration Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo., but she said in a post-debate interview with CBS that ultimately Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is in charge.
“No, I don’t support it, and I have been in contact with both sides on this issue,” Klobuchar said of the plans unveiled Tuesday. “I’ve talked to Senator Blunt about this, that I thought we should have open access for the press. They tried this one other time, when Senator [Richard C.] Shelby was heading up the Rules Committee, when they tried to restrict the press.”
“I think this is a big mistake,” Klobuchar said of the new restrictions. “I wanted to actually open it more and allow laptops to be used in the press gallery in the chamber.”
The procedures announced Tuesday include additional security screenings for access to the chamber and severe restrictions on press movements near the Senate floor.
Senate rules have long prohibited the use of electronic devices in the chamber by members of the media, but reporters asked for permission to use laptop computers during the trial, a move that could actually limit the need for the press corps to constantly be coming and going.
Klobuchar thanked CBS News reporter Ed O’Keefe, a veteran member of the congressional press corps, for recognizing her role as the top Democrat on the Rules panel, which has jurisdiction over a wide range of administrative and operational functions on the Senate side of the Capitol. She also expressed doubts about explanations given by Senate officials involved in the new plans.
“They claim it is security. I really don’t think that’s true. We’ve had very high profile votes and high profile subjects at hearings, and we have not restricted access in that way,” Klobuchar said.
“I have my own theories, of course, and they’re not good ones,” she said. “It’s because they don’t want people to interview senators and be able to have them talk.”
“They can tell the press they haven’t made a decision yet, that’s fine … but you can’t cut us off from talking to the press. I just disagree with this. I’m the daughter of a reporter, a staunch believer in the First Amendment, and I think this is wrong,” Klobuchar said.