Senate impeachment trial rules: No phones and no talking for senators

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska saluted Senate rules announced Wednesday for the impeachment trial that are designed to ensure senators are not distracted and can pay close attention to the proceedings.

The rules, which might seem more designed for a seventh-grade classroom instead of the United States Senate, include a ban on smart phones and electronics, a requirement senators sit at their desks and not talk to their neighbors, and not read any materials not directly associated with the ongoing testimony.

“Paying attention is significant and important and I’m glad that we can put these devises down,” Murkowski said.

“I’m glad we will be sitting in our chairs, I’m glad that we are going to be focused on what’s in front of us at that time. I think it’s important, it’s beautifully old fashion, and I think we should stick to it,” she said.

Murkowski was responding to guidelines released by Senate leaders, which includes a description of how members should conduct themselves throughout the duration of the impeachment trial.

Other rules listed include that Senators “should plan to be in attendance at all times” and should refer to Chief Justice John Roberts as “Mr. Chief Justice.”

The memo describing decorum guidelines for a Senate trial from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s offices also states that “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,” and, “similarly, when the justice departs, Senators should rise and remain standing until he has exited the chamber.”

Throughout the trial there will also be restricted access to the Senate wing of the Capitol every day, “30 minutes prior to all proceedings involving the exhibition or consideration of the Articles of Impeachment against the President of the United States,” wrote McConnell and Schumer in a Dear Colleague letter to members and staff.

The three-page letter also tells members that their staff’s access to the Senate floor will be “severely limited,” and each member will receive three daily and one permanent family ticket permitting access to the Senate gallery, as well as notes some other housekeeping items.

Public and staff led tours will remain unaffected around the Capitol, but two areas near the Senate chamber will be closed off during proceedings.

McConnell said the trial is expected to start in earnest on Tuesday.

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