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Live Mic: New Senate restrictions hit reporters covering impeachment of Trump

The U.S. Capitol in Washington is shrouded in mist, Dec. 13, 2019. This coming week’s virtually certain House impeachment of President Donald Trump will underscore how Democrats and Republicans have morphed into fiercely divided camps since lawmakers impeached President Bill Clinton.(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

SALT LAKE CITY — The news media are chaffing against new restrictions imposed by the Senate on journalists reporting on the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

Natalie Andrews, former KSL employee and now a congressional reporter at The Wall Street Journal, spoke with Lee Lonsberry on his show “Live Mic” about those limitations on reporters covering the impeachment of Trump.

She said the news media in Washington are still getting a sense of the structure of the trial.

“It’s kind of amazing that we don’t have an understanding of the structure, given that it’s supposed to start on Tuesday,” Andrews said.

Andrews said reporters normally have open access to elected officials and their staff in the Capitol complex.

“We’re asking the questions that people want to get asked,” she said. “You can talk to them in their offices [or]  in the halls.”

“The main spot where reporters and senators mingle is the basement of the Capitol where they’re walking into votes and reporters wait there — sometimes several dozen reporters — and you catch them. But right now the [Senate] Sergeant-at-Arms is putting reporters in a pen,” Andrews said.

She said last week senators wanted to talk to reporters about top issues, such as USMCA [United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement] but were stopped.

“Officers were interrupting conversations between senators and reporters and saying, ‘You guys can’t have this conversation,'” she said.

Reporters are prevented from walking with senators to continue conversations — even when the senator involved is willingly participating. Reporters also now may not approach senators for interviews in the halls surrounding the Senate chamber.1

Historic moment for journalists

“What are some of the larger, unanswered questions as we approach next Tuesday” when the impeachment trial begins? Lee asked.

Andrews said it is still unknown how long both sides (White House legal team vs. impeachment managers) have to present opening arguments.

“But we’ve heard that [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell wants to get this done quickly,” she said.

As a reporter, Lee asked Andrews how she sees her job from a historic perspective covering the third impeachment trial in U.S. history.

She described how quiet the Senate chamber became as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath to senators on upholding impartial justice.

“When there are one hundred senators in that room it is not quiet. But it was solemn. You could tell that everyone was thinking very seriously,” she said.

When Andrews was standing before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she announced the House was moving toward impeachment “you really feel that this is going to be a different thing than just run-of-the-mill, ‘Hey, we’re passing legislation,'” Andrews said.