WASHINGTON — Senators and their staff members officially learned Wednesday of access restrictions and decorum practices in and around the Senate chamber during the upcoming impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
In a Dear Colleague letter signed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Charles E. Schumer of New York, senators were advised of limits on guest and staff access to the Capitol building's Senate wing.
Senators and House members will be allowed access, as will staffers with special impeachment trial credentials (the normal hard passes will not be sufficient). In addition, visitors to the Capitol for official business will need to be escorted through the tunnels from the Senate office buildings by staffers with the proper special credential.
"Access to any floor of the Senate Wing of the Capitol is restricted daily, beginning 30 minutes prior to all proceedings involving the exhibition or consideration of the Articles of Impeachment against the President of the United States and daily, beginning 30 minutes prior to all times that the United States Senate is sitting for trial with the Chief Justice of the United States presiding," McConnell and Schumer wrote Wednesday.
Also eligible for Senate-side access are people who hold gallery tickets to view the proceedings, as well as aides with floor privileges under the normal Senate rules (provided they have the impeachment trial overlay) and members of the press (who also have been advised they need the special credentials).
Visitor gallery tickets are being allocated to individual Senate offices, and the daily passes may be used more than once on the day in which they are valid, which could make Senate offices a hot spot for handing off the passes to view the proceedings.
Committees will each get two of the special credentials, and personal offices will each get one, according to the leaders.
As for the behavior of the senators themselves, a separate bulletin released on Wednesday affirms that there will be no electronic devices in the chamber for use by the senators during the trial. The notice also reminds senators that they need to keep quiet during the proceedings in the chamber.
"Upon the announcement of the arrival of the Chief Justice, Senators should all silently rise at their desks and remain standing until the Chief Justice takes his seat," the notice says. "Similarly, when the Chief Justice departs, Senators should rise and remain standing until he has exited the chamber."
In accordance with impeachment trial rules, requests of the chief justice such as motions and questions for impeachment managers are supposed to be made in writing by senators.
The letter from Schumer and McConnell also effectively includes confirmation of media access restrictions. Senators are being told to refer questions about media access to the Senate wing of the Capitol to the Senate media gallery staff.
Tuesday night, Rules and Administration ranking Democrat Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., expressed opposition to the press restrictions, which include an additional layer of screening to enter the Senate chamber and a "pen" on the second floor of the Capitol restricting the ability of members of the media to question senators.