Donald Trump and Republican senators are circling the wagons ahead of a contentious impeachment trial and a brutal election cycle. This week, Trump and his team announced drastic new changes that will significantly disrupt media coverage in Washington.
The revamped rules allegedly increase security, but a closer look reveals another example of Trump protecting his own interests.
While Trump has long been critical of “fake news” and mainstream media, his crackdown on media access this week was unnerving.
The Trump administration plans to restrict mainstream media’s advanced access to economic data by removing computers from the equation.
For several decades, reporters enjoyed early access to market-moving economic information like employment data and inflation. They were confined in a “lockup” where they could use computers without internet access to write their story. When the lockup period expired, journalists could send their work electronically to be posted online.
There are good reasons for changing the lockup procedures. For one, they give mainstream media platforms an advantage over smaller peers.
Large organizations like Bloomberg cater to high-speed traders who use algorithms to place their bets. Those companies are able to charge hefty annual fees, a practice the government is keen to end.
Donald Trump is particularly interested in hurting these firms this year since Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg owns one of them.
There’s another reason Donald Trump wants to cater to smaller media outlets: his allies are reportedly working to buy one.
Hicks Equity Partners, a family investment firm tied to the co-chairman of the Republican National Committee, Thomas Hicks Jr., may acquire One America News Network (OANN), according to the Wall Street Journal. OANN is a small, Trump-friendly conservative network. (Editor’s Note (01/22 02:48 EST): A representative for Mr. Hicks has since told CCN.com that he isn’t personally participating in the deal.)
Trump and his supporters say that Fox News – the only right-wing voice among mainstream outlets – isn’t doing enough to support the Republican party. Taking away big networks’ privileged access to economic data is one way to open the door for OANN.
Changing the lockup procedure isn’t the only way Trump and his allies are cutting the media out. The Republican-controlled Senate is also limiting press access during the impeachment trial.
Reporters will be confined to a single press pen, limiting their access to trial participants. Security officers will prevent journalists from freely entering and exiting this area, where electronic devices are not permitted. That will impact coverage significantly because reporters typically enter and exit freely to push updates out as news breaks.
When the impeachment articles were delivered this week, only one video camera was permitted, and no photographs could be taken. Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1998 did not carry the same harsh restrictions.
It’s not hard to understand Trump’s motive. He desires to draw attention away from the impeachment hearing as much as possible. Republican senators who plan to vote against his removal from office likely agree with his sentiment.
Impeachment is a starkly partisan issue. Democrats are fighting fiercely for his removal and Republicans vow to protect him. Liberals have already started to ramp up pressure on Senate Republicans, arguing that voting along party lines would be spitting in the face of impartial justice. As House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler put it,
The Senate is on trial as well as the President.
That sentiment is likely to be true as coverage of the trial begins. With the press unable to speak to senators and ask for comment as they usually would, making lawmakers accountable simply won’t happen.
Disclaimer: The opinions in this article do not represent investment or trading advice from CCN.com
Last modified: January 22, 2020 11:38 PM UTC