Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) had some strong words for the proposed press restrictions during the upcoming impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
“I think it’s a huge mistake. U.S. senators are grown women and grown men. If they don’t want to make a comment, they know how to say no comment,” Kennedy told reporters on Wednesday.
The organization representing beat reporters on Capitol Hill is sharply protesting the severe restrictions expected to be imposed on the media during the length of the trial, which might last several weeks. Under the rules, authored by the Senate Republican leaders who control the chamber, reporters will have very limited access to speak freely to lawmakers as they move about the Capitol.
“These potential restrictions fail to acknowledge what currently works on Capitol Hill, or the way the American public expects to be able to follow a vital news event about their government in the digital age,” tweeted Sarah Wire, a Los Angeles Times reporter who chairs the Standing Committee of Correspondents on Capitol Hill. Wire added that the rules would prevent the public from hearing what their representatives in the Senate think about the trial.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee, which typically handles such matters, echoed those concerns. She suggested Republicans crafted the rules because they “don’t want people to interview senators and have them talk” about the trial, which will examine Trump’s alleged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
“We should have open access for the press,” Klobuchar said Tuesday in comments to reporters after she participated in a debate among Democratic presidential candidates in Iowa. “I think this is a big mistake.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said the rules would make it “more difficult for reporters to keep the public informed about every step of this historic trial.”
Top Senate Republicans have defended the proposed restrictions as a way to protect senators from crowds as they make their way around the Capitol during a historic event sure to draw large media attention. Some pointed to the 2018 Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which attracted many protesters to the Capitol, as a reason to increase security.
“There was a lot of harassment of members,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said Wednesday.
But Kennedy, a staunch Trump ally who also is one of the more press-friendly senators on the Hill, argued against restricting the media.
“We’re not children. We’re grown men and grown women,” he said. “And if you don’t want to talk to the press, you don’t have to talk to the press, all you gotta say is ‘No comment.’ If you guys ask 150 times, say no comment 150 times.”
The proposed limits send “the wrong message,” he added.