A taste of D.C. and the impeachment trial
THURSDAY 16 JANUARY 2020 - The weather brought January dreary - quiet, gray, cold humidity. Not a whole lot different that the mood inside and outside the U.S. Capitol that day. The good people in the office of Delaware U.S. Sen. Chris Coons hooked me up with a ticket for the Senate gallery to watch the first hour of the second day of the impeachment trial for President Donald Trump. An historic trial of global proportions. I wanted to get a feel for it.
The gallery in the balcony that rings the Senate chamber on the capitol building was only about half full for my time there. Security was tight inside and outside the building. In the routes that I walked I saw little political activity or outward signs of the scene unfolding inside. Not quite sure what to make of that.
House managers for the House of Representatives that have impeached the President presented arguments supporting their articles. Chief Justice John Roberts presided from the pinnacle seat facing and in front of the seated senators: the Democrats on the left side of the aisle facing the front of the room, the Republicans on the right.
No hooting, no hollering, and plenty of armed security keeping a close eye on proceedings, ready to pounce on any in the gallery who violated any of the rules in place to maintain decorum. Twin video cameras perched on the gallery railing at several strategic positions to provide live and taped coverage.
Most in the chamber - above and below - sat quietly and listened. Sure, an occasional cough here and there, but otherwise quiet except for those speaking.
The most action came in the guise of stenographers - all female - who stood at the front keyboarding every spoken word. They had their black machines draped around their necks on thick straps that held the keyboard at the perfect angle at their waist. Tough job. Total concentration on the task at hand.
Just before the little hand of a big, antique, formal clock, mounted above Chief Justice Roberts on the face of the gallery railing, ticked to the quarter hour, a replacement stenographer strolled down the center aisle. There, she took her place next to the stenographer completing her turn. For just a few seconds, they keyboarded simultaneously. At the exact quarter hour mark, the first stenographer stopped keyboarding and strolled out of the chamber, presumably headed off to the room where she would begin transcribing the arcane keyboarding she had completed into a fully legible transcript for the congressional record.
I don’t know how many stenographers were in the rotation for each day’s eight hours of testimony but I do know that 15 minutes of work when it was their turn was not easy work.
Many long days for the senators, all of whom constitute the jury, as well as the Chief Justice and all of the support staff needed to keep the proceedings progressing smoothly. Never underestimate the infrastructure that makes it all work.
As of this writing the trial appears about over, with no conviction or removal of President Trump in sight. But that’s not for sure at this moment because the trial isn’t over. The trial has been a Constitutional education of sorts for those in the nation taking the time to watch.
Two hours after I left Lewes, timed to beat miss rush hour, I boarded the Metro at the New Carrollton Station. Surfaced at Union Station, walked to the Russell Senate Office Building and Sen. Coons’ quarters there, made my presence known and started observing. Journalism. A damn fine profession. And God bless and protect the First Amendment!
Here are a few photos from my quick and efficient trip to D.C.