Capitol Police Tighten Security on Media Access

Hill reporters grumble

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., right, and Vice President Mike Pence make their way to the Senate Policy luncheon in the Capitol on June 27, 2017. U.S. Capitol Police barred reporters Tuesday from staking out the hallways leading to the lunch room. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Congressional reporters faced unexpected access restrictions Tuesday on the second floor of the Senate as they waited for weekly party luncheons to end.

A number of reporters tweeted that the U.S. Capitol Police shooed them away from their usual stakeouts outside the rooms where GOP and Democratic leaders meet separately to set the agenda for the upcoming week. Vice President Mike Pence ate with GOP senators Tuesday.

Last week, 36-year-old Virginian Ryan T. Clayton snuck by USCP checkpoints and threw Russian flags at President Donald Trump as the president walked to the GOP luncheon. Clayton had managed to hide among a press group waiting for the president. He had not been given any kind of press credential or visitor’s badge, Senate staffers said.

USCP decided to shut down reporters’ access to the hallways on the second floor Tuesday, media members said.

They said police officers were more stringent checking credentials and appeared to be singling out the media — and not tourists, lobbyists, or staffers — when asking people to show them their ID.

Billy House, a Bloomberg Congressional reporter and the president of the Standing Committee of Correspondents at the Capitol, tweeted that his committee had sent a letter to the USCP objecting to the restrictions.

USCP said Tuesday it had not introduced any changes to the access credentialed media have within the U.S. Capitol.

“We are simply enforcing the current rules and protocols already in place to ensure the safety and security of elected officials, Members of Congress, staff, visitors, and members of the press,” USCP said in a statement.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Tuesday he was aware reporters faced new restrictions at the Capitol and that they were unacceptable. He is looking into the matter and has contacted the Rules Committee about it, the New York Democrat said.

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