A Republican-led Senate panel backed away from a plan to restrict media cameras in parts of the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday after Democrats and some Republicans criticized the move as an attempt to curtail press access.
Senate staff who manage press access told television network reporters earlier Tuesday that they could no longer film interviews with senators in the hallways of the Capitol without first receiving permission, citing a directive from the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.
Such interviews, an everyday occurrence in designated areas throughout the Capitol, provide a running insight into legislators’ thoughts on bills and hearings.
The staff said the restrictions were because the number of reporters has swelled due to negotiations on healthcare legislation and high-profile hearings. The directive came from the Senate Rules Committee, which oversees operations on the Senate side of the Capitol, they said. The panel is controlled by Republicans, since they hold the majority in the Senate.
Committee Chairman Richard Shelby said in a statement the panel was simply enforcing rules already on the books, adding it “has been working with the various galleries to ensure compliance with existing rules in an effort to help provide a safe environment.”
The senior Democrat on the panel, Amy Klobuchar, said she was not consulted in advance and objected. In a statement, Klobuchar said she called on Republicans “to allow reporters to do their jobs.”
She added that she had talked to Shelby, who had told her he would not move to change press access without consulting her.
“We must hold him to it. This is no time for limiting press access in the U.S. Senate — with Russia hearings, Attorney General (Jeff) Sessions testifying, and what appears to be the secretive drafting of a healthcare bill. We have to preserve freedom of the press,” she said.
Shelby’s office did not respond to a request to discuss the dispute over media access except to provide his prepared statement.
A Senate aide, who asked not to be identified, said that Rules Committee members were “looking to make changes and have backed off for now.”
“We’re certainly not trying to deny anybody an opportunity to have questions asked,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said during a press conference, referring reporters back to the Rules Committee for detailed guidance.
The Capitol hallways have been crowded with both reporters and summer tourists in recent weeks as Senate Republicans work on an overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system. Current and former government officials have also drawn crowds at hearings related to probes into alleged Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election.
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Dustin Volz and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Frances Kerry)
United States, Mexico, Canada finalize Donald Trump’s USMCA trade deal
The United States, Mexico and Canada signed a deal Tuesday to finalize their new trade agreement, paving the way to ratification after more than two years of arduous negotiations.
However, the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the US Senate would likely delay Congressional ratification of the agreement until next year, said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
In reality, it is the second time the three countries have triumphantly announced the conclusion of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the deal meant to replace the 25-year-old NAFTA, which President Donald Trump complains has been "a disaster" for the US.
WATCH: Maddow hilariously recaps Trump’s ‘shenanigans in the Oval Office’ with the Russian foreign minister
MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow on Tuesday examined President Donald Trump's meeting with Russian Federation Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov -- on the same day that the House of Representatives unveiled articles of impeachment against the commander-in-chief.
Following the meeting, Lavrov trolled Trump on the issues of foreign election interference and Trump's habit of revealing classified intelligence.
"Given that, given the way the president is being impeached for having done all those things to Ukraine in and way that undermined our alliance with them and specifically their fight against Russian aggression -- which has, you know, led to a five-year-long war in Ukraine -- I mean given the fact he's being impeached for undermining Ukraine in its war against Russia, this is heck of a day to choose to have the Russian foreign minister sitting on your lap in the Oval Office," Maddow said.
Trump propaganda network tried to get visa for arrested Ukrainian official to give them Biden dirt: report
On Tuesday, The Daily Beast reported that One America News Network, a pro-Trump TV channel that competes with Fox News, tried to secure a U.S. visa for Oleksandr Onyshchenko, a former Ukrainian lawmaker who was arrested last week by German authorities on corruption charges.
OAN reportedly was interested in transporting Onyschenko to America to help uncover dirt on Burisma, the energy company linked to former Vice President Joe Biden's son, and the focus of President Donald Trump's attempts to coerce the Ukrainian government to interfere with U.S. elections. They are reportedly also seeking visas for "several other" Ukrainian officials.