Australians could be jailed and stung with a fine for using barbecues this summer.
The strict penalties apply in Sydney for people using a wood or coal-fired barbecue without proper provisions for putting fires out.
Lighting a fire would result in a fine of $2,200 but if the matter is taken to court, people could face a year in jail and be fined up to $5,500.
Sydneysiders could face 12 months in jail and be slapped with a $5,500 fine for using a barbeque during a statewide total fire ban (stock image)
Australians who start a fire, which spreads, hurts a person or destroys property during the ban will be slapped with a maximum fine of $132,000.
Additionally, they could also face 14 years behind bars.
Total fire bans in Sydney are implemented by the NSW Rural Fire Service, during extremely hot weather and when bushfires are happening.
Under the ban, it is illegal to light, maintain or use a fire in the open or to carry out any activity outdoors, which is likely to cause a blaze.
A statewide total fire ban has been declared for Monday and Tuesday, following the devastating blazes, which ravaged the NSW mid north coast on Saturday afternoon.
But using an electric barbecue for cooking is permitted under the supervision of an adult.
Gas barbecues can also be used on the conditions there is adult supervision, no combustible material within two metres, and an immediate and continuous supply of water.
The gas barbecue must also be within 20m of a home or be at a designated picnic area and be approved by the council, national parks or state forest.
Total fire bans are declared during extremely hot weather and if bushfires are happening (pictured: a firefighter fights a blaze at a property in Torrington, near Glen Innes, NSW on Sunday)
Permits are suspended during a total fire ban.
Some activities involving fire can be exempt during the bans, such as emergency infrastructure work, bee hive smokers or ceremonial fires.
The exemptions are detailed in the NSW Government Gazette each time a total fire ban is declared.
TOTAL FIRE BAN RULES IN NSW
What is a total fire ban?
A total fire ban means no fires out in the open to prevent a potential blaze from starting.
You cannot light, maintain or use a fire in the open or carry out any activity outdoors likely to cause a blaze.
Can I use a barbecue or pizza oven?
Using a barbecue or pizza oven which burns solid fuel such as wood, charcoal or heat beads is banned.
Permits are suspended during the ban but can be used after the restriction is lifted.
What barbecues are allowed to be used?
You can use an electric barbecue given there is adult supervision and no combustible material within two metres.
You can use a gas barbecue under the following conditions:
– Adult supervision
– No combustible material within two metres
– Immediate and continuous supply of water
– Used within 20 metres of a private dwelling such as a home
– Is within a designated picnic area and is approved by the council, national parks of state forest
What are the penalties?
Persons lighting a fire can incur an on the spot fine of $2,200.
If the matter is taken to court, they could face 12 years in jail and/or a $5,500 fine.
A fire started which spreads, hurts a person or damages property or the environment can lead to a $132,000 fine and/or 14 months in jail.
What are the exemptions during a Total Fire Ban?
A range of activities may be exempt during the ban such as emergency infrastructure work, bee hive smokers, mining operations, sugar can harvesting, use of fire works or ceremonial fires.
The exemptions are datailed in the NSW Government Gazette every time a Total Fire Ban is declared.
Can I apply for a Total Fire Ban exemption?
If you want to light a fire or carry out an activity which could lead to one, you can check the Government Gazette to see if there is a standard exemption that applies to your situation.
If the standard exemptions don’t cover your circumstances then you may apply for a specific exemption by filling out a Total Fire Ban application form.
You will be notified if your application is approved or declined.
Source: NSW Rural Fire Service
RFS plane crash: Investigators probe wreckage, cockpit voice recordings
Investigators will begin poring over voice recordings made in the final moments before a fatal firefighting plane crash in southern NSW.
The large aerial water tanker was engulfed by a fireball after crashing in the Snowy Mountains region while battling bushfires on Thursday afternoon.
In the video above: Water bombing plane crash victims honoured
Captain Ian McBeth, first officer Paul Clyde Hudson and flight engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr were killed.
Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigators will on Sunday begin examining data downloaded from the plane’s cockpit voice recorder.
They hope the recordings will shed some light on the cause of the crash.
‘Without knowing what exactly happened we don’t know how useful it is.’
“It generally records the last two hours of a flight. It will record the pilot, co-pilot and the flight engineer’s discussion in the cockpit,” ATSB boss Greg Hood said.
“Without knowing what exactly happened we don’t know how useful it is. We should have some indication (on Sunday) when the data is downloaded.”
Investigators will also on Sunday use a drone to produce a three-dimensional map of the crash site, which is littered with the charred wreckage of the C-130 Hercules plane.
“(On Sunday) we will bring in the 3D mapping drone,” Hood said.
“It was difficult to do that (on Saturday) because the area is still an active fire zone and there were firebombing activities carried out throughout the day.”
More on 7NEWS.com.au
Hood said investigators would also begin interviewing crash witnesses in the town of Cooma.
Relatives of the three men killed in the crash will be offered the chance to visit the site next week.
They are expected to arrive in Sydney on Sunday.
It comes as investigators reveal the aircraft did not have a black box.
Boris Johnson ‘reiterates the need’ for US suspect Anne Sacoolas in Harry Dunn case
Boris Johnson has reiterated the need for US suspect Anne Sacoolas in Harry Dunn case to return to Britain during a phone call with US President Donald Trump.
The Prime Minister spoke of needing to secure justice for the 19-year-old’s family after the US rejected an extradition request for American suspect Anne Sacoolas on Thursday.
Harry died when his motorbike crashed into a car outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in August last year.
Boris Johnson has reiterated the need for US suspect Anne Sacoolas in Harry Dunn case to return to Britain to face justice during a call with Donald Trump. Pair are pictured together at the NATO leaders summit in Watford, near London, in December last year
Harry Dunn (right), 19, died when his motorcycle crashed in a head-on collision with a car allegedly driven by Anne Sacoolas (left), 42, on August 27 last year
A Downing Street spokesman said that Mr Johnson raised the topic during a phone call with the US President on Friday.
‘The Prime Minister raised the tragic case of Harry Dunn, and the need to secure justice for Harry’s family,’ a Downing Street spokesman said.
‘He reiterated the need for the individual involved to return to the UK.’
Mrs Sacoolas, 42, claimed diplomatic immunity following the crash and was able to return to her home country, sparking an international controversy.
She was charged with causing Harry’s death by dangerous driving by the Crown Prosecution Service in December.
Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom (left) pictured with Harry Dunn’s mother (centre), his stepfather Bruce Charles (second right) and family lawyer Radd Seiger (far right)
Tim Dunn, the father of Harry Dunn, outside South Northamptonshire Council offices in Towchester, following yesterday’s meeting with Ms Leadsom
A petition on change.org called ‘Justice for Harry Dunn – Extradite Anne Sacoolas’, which is urging US authorities to extradite the suspect, reached 100,000 signatures on Saturday evening.
Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom met Harry’s family on Friday, the day after she had informed them of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to refuse the request.
Ms Leadsom held talks with US ambassador Woody Johnson, the commander of RAF Croughton Colonel Bridget McNamara and the Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police.
The family’s constituency MP, Mrs Leadsom said she had expressed her disappointment on their behalf during the discussion with the US ambassador.
She told reporters that the Prime Minister is ‘very much on the side of the family in their desire to see justice done’, adding: ‘All of us in Government are working to that end’.
Ms Leadsom and mother Charlotte Charles, who said the meeting went ‘really well’. She said the family are feeling ‘very much supported’ by Ms Leadsom and the rest of the government
The Business Secretary leaving the council offices, following the US’ refusal to extradite Ms Sacoolas. Ms Leadsom described the news as ‘frustrating’ and ‘very disappointing’
A spokesman for the US State Department said the request was rejected because it would render the invocation of diplomatic immunity a practical nullity and set an extraordinarily troubling precedent.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the move ‘amounts to a denial of justice’ as he expressed the Government’s disappointment at the decision.
It is understood that Mr Raab will meet with Mr Pompeo next week, where the pair are likely to discuss the case.
The Foreign Office maintains the suspect had diplomatic immunity, which has been disputed by the family, but Mr Raab said he would look to ‘resolve the issue’ surrounding any immunity given to staff at the RAF Croughton base.
Harry Dunn’s father described a meeting with Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom yesterday as ‘promising’.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, pictured, has turned down the extradition request for Mrs Sacoolas, family spokesman Mr Seiger said
Tim Dunn said: ‘Some things we agree on and some things we don’t agree on. But I feel like she’s behind us, I really do.’
Speaking after a meeting with Harry’s family, Ms Leadsom said: ‘We’ve been talking about the frustrating news that the extradition was refused yesterday by the US government.
‘Obviously Harry’s family are disappointed and very upset by that, but equally very determined that the driver of the car that killed Harry Dunn should be brought back to the United Kingdom to face justice.
‘We are absolutely united in our determination to get justice for Harry.’
Ms Leadsom added: ‘I’ve been talking with Harry’s family about what the next steps are and it will take some time to consider what the government’s next steps should be. But I am working on that with my colleagues in government.’
Ms Leadsom said she could not comment on whether the government would block any future extradition proceedings, adding: ‘We just heard that news last night. It was obviously very disappointing and I will be seeing what more can be done on behalf of Harry’s family.’
Addressing what she said to the US ambassador on Friday morning, Ms Leadsom said: ‘I expressed my disappointment on behalf of Harry’s family, but also really importantly for the local community near to the RAF Croughton base.
‘It’s very concerning that this, which was at its heart a tragic road accident – which does unfortunately happen all the time, right across the world – but in this instance, the fact that there is no justice for Harry, makes the pain of losing him so much worse and that’s what we have to address.’
The parents of Harry Dunn, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn (left and centre) along with their family lawyer and representative Radd Seiger (right) pictured together on Good Morning Britain in December
Pushed on what was said in the meeting with the US ambassador, Ms Leadsom said: ‘I don’t want to comment on that meeting, it was, of course, very cordial.
‘The relationship between the UK and the US is a very deep and long-standing and very good relationship – and we do have frank conversations – but I don’t want to comment on that meeting.’
Asked if the Prime Minister was going to comment on the case, Ms Leadsom said: ‘The Prime Minister is very much on the side of the family in their desire to see justice done for Harry.
‘All of us in government are working to that end.’
Commenting on the meeting with Ms Leadsom, Harry Dunn’s mother Charlotte Charles said: ‘The meeting went well with Andrea – it went really well.
‘There’s points that she’s given us which she’s going to take away and has fully assured us that she’ll be working on, and we’re very much feeling supported by her and the rest of the government.
‘It’s going to take time, it’s not an overnight thing, but we’ll get there.’
Speaking about what the family now wants after the extradition request was refused, Charlotte Charles said yesterday: ‘She has to come back.
‘I still don’t understand how she can even live with herself and carry on with her life and drive.
‘I don’t understand that, she must be made of different stuff to us, I don’t know. But she has to come back, one way or another.’
Meanwhile, the Foreign Secretary has said the Government ‘would have acted differently’ from the US secretary of state after he refused to return the suspect charged with causing the death of Harry Dunn to the UK.
Dominic Raab appeared to suggest he would have agreed to extradite 42-year-old Anne Sacoolas if he was put in the same position as Mike Pompeo.
Mr Raab said the rejection of an extradition request for her ‘amounts to a denial of justice’ and that the Foreign Office believes she should return to the UK.
Earlier yesterday, Harry’s family slammed the ‘indefensible’ US decision to block the deportation of Anne Sacoolas in a ‘dark day for the special relationship’ and demanded a meeting with Boris Johnson.
America yesterday refused to hand over a diplomat’s wife who is accused of killing a 19-year-old British biker in a crash near a US airbase.
Mr Dunn was killed in a head-on collision with a car on August 27 last year near RAF Croughton, in Northamptonshire.
Ms Sacoolas, 42, the wife of a US intelligence official, is believed to have been driving on the wrong side of the road and was charged with causing death by dangerous driving. But she claimed diplomatic immunity and flew to the US.
The PM (pictured on BBC Breakfast) played down expectations of a legal breakthrough
Asked if the Prime Minister was doing enough, family spokesman Radd Seiger told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I have to say at the moment not. We did not welcome his public comments last week.
‘He is the leader of the gang, he aspired to be Prime Minister. History was made last night when the Americans decided not to return her.
‘That’s the first time in history that the United States has turned down an extradition request. It’s one of the darkest days in the history of this special relationship.
‘Boris Johnson wanted to be Prime Minister, he is now being tested severely. I expect him today to rise to that challenge and come and meet with me and the family and tell us what he’s going to do about it.’
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said the Government is disappointed about the decision not to extradite Harry Dunn crash suspect Anne Sacoolas to the UK, adding: ‘We feel this amounts to a denial of justice, and we believe Anne Sacoolas should return to the UK. We are now urgently considering our options.’
Mr Seiger told MailOnline yesterday: ‘The family are not at all surprised at these developments and are taking it in their stride having factored it in to their planning and strategy.
‘This is a lawless corrupt administration that appears intent on attacking even it’s closest international ally. If Trump and Pompeo think this is an end to the matter, they have another thing coming to them. Team Harry will sit down with the Government tomorrow (Fri) and work out our next steps. And next steps there will be. The whole world is on Team Harry’s side. This is not a battle the US Government is going to win.’
Yesterday he told Good Morning Britain: ‘History was made last night. This is the first time the US have ever refused an extradition request from the UK. It’s one of the darkest days in the history of the special relationship.’
He added: ‘It’s a completely indefensible decision both legally and morally.’
Reacting to Mr Raab’s comments on the extradition refusal, the teenager’s family said: ‘We are obviously grateful for any intervention that the Foreign Office (FCO) is making on our behalf.
‘However, the fact remains that the FCO are still defending the judicial review proceedings.
‘It remains our position that intelligence officers at RAF Croughton have diplomatic immunity and that if we dare challenge that in court they will seek to effectively make us bankrupt if the we lose the case by forcing us to pay legal costs.
‘That amounts to a huge arm around the US Government’s position that their (the US) personnel are free to come to the UK, kill UK citizens or shed their blood, and then get on the next plane back home.
‘How they have the front to maintain that position after last night’s decision is a complete mystery to us and should trouble everyone on this side of the pond.
‘As things stand, it matters more to the FCO that the status quo be maintained and protected than the lives of their own people and their families’ ability to seek justice in the event of the worst happening.
‘If we have that wrong, they are more than welcome to make that concession now or meet with us to explain why they will not do so.’
Mr Seiger said: ‘What it threw up unfortunately is just the corrupt nature of this (Trump) administration that seems intent upon taking a wrecking ball to every institution there is.’
Boris Johnson last week said the chance of the suspect ever returning to the UK was very low.
Mr Seiger last week said the Prime Minister’s comments made on BBC Breakfast were ‘a very powerful blow’ which have ‘done real damage’ to his bid to bring the wife of an American intelligence officer back to Britain to face justice.
‘I was watching the BBC Breakfast interview in disbelief – my jaw hit the floor,’ he told MailOnline. ‘We are incandescent with rage,’ he said.
Demanding a greater show of support from the PM, Mr Seiger questioned whether the Mr Johnson is more interested in currying favour with President Trump than supporting the grieving parents of a British citizen.
‘Boris Johnson’s comments have made my job ten times harder. We were beginning to make real progress,’ he said.
‘We felt that although we weren’t supported by authorities initially, through hard work and dialogue, we were building bridges.
‘Home Secretary Priti Patel reached out – along with our MP Andrea Leadsom – and we were bringing the government and Harry’s family together.
‘When he [Boris Johnson] spoke on BBC Breakfast I was in disbelief. It wasn’t the public line we agreed on.’
Mr Seiger added: ‘It’s not just about Harry anymore, it’s about the ability to allow a sovereign nation to apply the laws of the land to the foreign visitors.
‘Everyone right up to the Home Secretary agrees with this – all except for Boris who is off in La La Land.’
Mr Seiger also revealed that Harry’s mother Charlotte had begun therapy to begin to process his son’s death, adding: ‘It was especially difficult over the holiday season.’
‘Totally partisan Impeachment Hoax!’ Donald Trump complains about how he’s been treated ‘unfairly’
President Donald Trump weighed in on the first day of his defense team’s performance at his impeachment trial a few hours after it concluded on Saturday, arguing he’s been ‘unfairly’ treated and the victim of a ‘totally partisan Impeachment Hoax.’
‘Any fair minded person watching the Senate trial today would be able to see how unfairly I have been treated and that this is indeed the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax that EVERYBODY, including the Democrats, truly knows it is. This should never be allowed to happen again!,’ he wrote.
His defense team also portrayed him as a victim of political enemies who wanted to undercut his election and denied him due process during the House investigation.
‘They’re here to perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history,’ White House Counsel Pat Cipollone noted of Democrats. ‘And we can’t allow that to happen.’
Saturday’s trial gave a hint of what was to come. It clocked in at a little more than three hours and set the stage for Trump’s team to make its main argument on Monday.
President Donald Trump weighed in on the first day of his defense team’s performance at his impeachment trial
The president has spent more of his impeachment trial retweeting his supporters and commentators on cable news who are defending him.
Trump was in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum when the trial began last week.
The president has a packed schedule next week when his lawyers wrap up his defense on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday will be an opportunity for senators to ask questions of both sides.
The president will be signing his USMCA trade deal on Wednesday and unveiling a Middle East peace plan on Tuesday – the same day he invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main election rival Benny Gantz to the White House.
He also plans to troll Democrats with a campaign rally in Iowa ahead of its presidential caucuses and travel to New Jersey for another rally to welcome the latest member of the GOP: Congressman Jeff Van Drew, who switched to the Republican Party during the impeachment inquiry in the House.
And he’ll head to Iowa on Thursday evening to rally his supporters at Drake University.
That rally will come four days before the Iowa caucuses – the first nominating contest for the candidates running for the Democratic nomination.
The majority of the president’s defense strategy on Saturday focused on process and procedure.
Cipollone began by using Trump’s favorite argument – that senators should read the call of the president’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky.
‘They didn’t talk a lot about the transcript of the call which I would submit is the best evidence,’ Cipollone said of the Democrats.
He charged Democrats with not presenting all the evidence, including items that would act in the president’s defense that he said the defense team would show.
Trump defense attorneys Jay Sekulow and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone arrive at the Capitol on Saturday for Trump’s trial
‘Ask yourself why didn’t I see this in the first three days,’ Cipollone told senators. ‘As House managers really their goal should be to show you all of the facts.’
Trump’s defense team also are portraying Trump as the victim of Democrats trying to undo the 2016 election.
‘They’re asking you not only to overturn the results of the last election but – as I’ve said – before they’re asking you to remove president trump from the ballot of an election occurring in nine months,’ Cipollone said, adding Democrats are trying to ‘take that decision away from the American people.’
‘They’re asking you to tear up all the ballots across this country on their own initiative,’ he noted.
THE TRUMP DREAM TEAM: WHO’S DEFENDING PRESIDENT IN SENATE
Lead counsel: Pat Cipollone, White House Counsel
Millionaire conservative Catholic father-of-10 who has little courtroom experience. ‘Strong, silent,’ type who has earned praise from Trump’s camp for resisting Congress’ investigations of the Ukraine scandal. Critics accused him of failing in his duty as a lawyer by writing ‘nonsense letters’ to reject Congressional oversight. His background is commercial litigation and as White House counsel is the leader of the Trump administration’s drive to put conservative judges in federal courts. Trump has already asked aides behind the scenes if he will perform well on television.
Jay Sekulow, president’s personal attorney
Millionaire one-time IRS prosecutor with his own talk radio show. Self-described Messianic Jew who was counsel to Jews for Jesus. Longtime legal adviser to Trump, but he is himself mentioned in the Ukraine affair, with Lev Parnas saying that he knew about Rudy Giuliani’s attempts to dig dirt on the Bidens but did not approve. Michael Cohen claimed that Sekulow and other members of Trump’s legal team put falsehoods in his statement to the House intel committee; Sekulow denies it. The New York Times reported that he voted for Hillary Clinton.
Alan Dershowitz, Harvard law professor
Shot to worldwide fame for his part in the ‘dream team’s’ successful defense of OJ Simpson but was already famous for his defense of Claus von Bulow, the British socialite accused of murdering his wife in Rhode Island. Ron Silver played Dershowitz in Reversal of Fortune. In 2008 he was a member of Jeffrey Epstein’s legal team which secured the lenient plea deal from federal prosecutors. But Dershowitz was a longtime friend of Epstein and was accused of having sex with two of Esptein’s victims. He denies it and is suing one of them, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, for libel, saying his sex life is ‘perfect.’ He admits he received a massage at Epstein’s home – but ‘kept my underwear on.’ Registered Democrat who spoke out against Trump’s election and again after the Charlottesville violence. Has become an outspoken defender of Trump against the Robert Mueller probe and the Ukraine investigation.
Ken Starr, former Whitewater independent counsel
Famous and reviled in equal measure for his Whitewater investigation into Bill and Hillary Clinton’s finances in Arkansas which eventually led him to evidence of Bill’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. He was a federal appeals judge and George H.W. Bush’s solicitor general before that role. He later became president and chancellor of Baylor University in Waco but was removed as president in May 2016 for mishandling the investigation into allegations of multiple sexual assaults by football players and other students, then quit voluntarily as chancellor. Is the second Jeffrey Epstein defender on the team; he was present in 2008 when the plea deal with prosecutor Alex Acosta was made which let Epstein off with just 13 months of work release prison.
Pam Bondi, White House attorney
Florida’s first female attorney general and also a long-time TV attorney who has been a Fox News guest host – including co-hosting The Five for three days in a row while still attorney general. Began her career as a prosecutor before moving into elected politics. Has been hit by a series of controversies, among them persuading then Florida governor Rick Scott to change the date of an execution because it clashed with her re-election launch, and has come under fire for her association with Scientology. She has defended it saying the group were helping her efforts against human trafficking; at the time the FBI was investigating it over human trafficking. Went all-in on Trump in 2016, leading ‘lock her up’ chants at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Joined the White House last November to aid the anti-impeachment effort.
Robert Ray, Ken Starr’s successor
Headed the Office of the Independent Counsel from 1999 until it closed for business in 2002, meaning it was he, not Ken Starr, who wrote the final words on the scandals of the Clinton years. Those included the report on Monica Lewinsky, the report on the savings and loan misconduct claims which came to be known as Whitewater, and the report on Travelgate, the White House travel office’s firing and file-gate, claims of improper access to the FBI’s background reports. Struck deal with Clinton to give up his law license. Went into private practice. Was charged with stalking a former lover in New York in 2006 four months after she ended their relationship. Now a frequent presence on Fox News.
Jane Raskin, private attorney
Part of a husband-and-wife Florida law team, she is a former prosecutor who specializes in defending in white collar crime cases. Their connection to Trump appears to have been through Ty Cobb, the former White House attorney. She and husband Martin advised Trump on his response to Mueller and appear to have been focused on avoiding an obstruction of justice accusation. That may be the reason to bring her in to the impeachment team; Democrats raised the specter of reviving Mueller’s report in their evidence to the impeachment trial.
Patrick Philbin and Michael Purpura, Deputy White House Counsels
Lowest-profile of the team, they work full-time for Cipollone in the White House. Philbin (left) was a George W. Bush appointee at the Department of Justice who helped come up with the system of trying Guantanamo Bay detainees in front of military commissions instead of in U.S. courts. He was one a group of officials, led by James Comey, who rushed to seriously-ill John Ashcroft’s bedside to stop the renewal of the warrant-less wiretap program. Unknown if Trump is aware of his links to Comey. Purpura (right) is also a Bush White House veteran who shaped its response to Congressional investigations at a time when there were calls for him to be impeached over going to war in Iraq. His name is on letters telling State Department employees not to testify. Has been named as a possible Trump nominee for federal court in Hawaii.
Senators baffled by half-empty spectator gallery during week one of impeachment trial
The Senate spectator gallery was unexpectedly half-empty throughout the first week of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, baffling senators who are shocked people who pass on the historic hearings.
The Senate trial began on January 16 after Trump was impeached on two articles stemming from accusations that he withheld military aid money from US ally Ukraine until they conducted an investigation into presidential hopeful Joe Biden.
Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma told New York Post: ‘I’m really surprised at that because this is kind of historic and I would think this would be an opportunity for people to get in there regardless of whose side you are on.’
The Senate spectator gallery gives interested individuals a bird’s eye view of the senators debating whether Trump should become the third president to be formally removed from office.
Journalists are not allowed to bring cameras or cell phones into the gallery, so the low audience turnout is only known by people who have direct access to the chamber.
Senators are shocked that the gallery inside the chamber was at least half-empty during the first week of the impeachment trial
Republican Sen. James Inhofe (center) said he’s shocked that people are missing this ‘historic’ impeachment trial and ‘he would think this would be an opportunity for people to get in there regardless of whose side you are on’
A handful of Republicans blame the lackluster turn out on the tedious opening remarks from their Democratic colleagues.
‘Well, if I had a choice I’d probably be home watching Chicago PD,’ said Sen. Pat Roberts, who underwent back surgery in August.
He added: ‘No, don’t put that in there or that would make me sound terrible.’
Sen. Rand Paul, who’s taken up crossword puzzles to entertain himself, said: ‘You know, 28 hours of hearing the same thing over and over again isn’t all that exciting. ‘
On Wednesday, Paul tweeted a photo of a gallery ticket and invited Trump to be his guest.
Republican Sen. Paul Rand (pictured): ‘You know, 28 hours of hearing the same thing over and over again isn’t all that exciting’
Some Democrats say televising the proceedings and accessibility are playing a role in the empty gallery seats.
Sen. Jack Reed said: ‘Because it’s on television, it’s a convenient alternative to coming in.’
‘I don’t think the average person thinks that it would be easy to come and watch,’ Sen. Chris Coons said.
Pictured: The US Senate chamber room with a view of the spectator gallery overhead
Most Senate gallery tickets are distributed through individual Senate Offices that get between three to five tickets that allows audiences to watch in half-hour seating blocks.
The tickets can be used by multiple people, including constituents and staff, who use shifts. Some Senate offices say they have a strong interest and offer shifts up to one hour.
Sen. Patrick Leahy revealed his tickets ‘have all been used.’
The Senate Sergeant at Arms determines rules for Senate chamber, but did not say how gallery seating is managed.
Some seats have had very little guests this week, including both corners in the east side of the chamber.
According to a Senate aid, a section that seats around 100 people and is known as the family gallery is usually reserved for relatives of senators. It’s possible Senate offices have varying policies for those tickets.
Republican Sen. Mike Rounds points towards a ban on not-taking outside a press section was unappealing to to Senate staff.
‘They can do more work in the office where they have an ability to take notes,’ Rounds said.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, the Democrat from Ohio, wondered if Senate Republicans who tightened rules for the trial and on reported access could be a reason.
Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware wishes the Senate gallery would be more accessible to the public and says experiencing the trial in person is different than watching on TV
Brown said: ‘I’ve gotta think, a lot of student groups are here, a lot of individuals are here, tourists are here. People would love to be part of this.’
Coons added that while the Senate Sergeant at Arms and Capitol Police ‘have a job to keep us safe’, ‘the gallery should be accessible.’
‘I have four tickets and we’re happy to rotate them out. I’ve had a whole bunch of Delawareans come down and watch in the gallery,’ Coons said.
‘And that’s encouraging because it is a different experience watching it in the chamber than watching it on TV.’
Although the impeachment trial will continue into into the following weeks, it is widely speculated that Trump will be acquitted.
Republicans hold the majority of seats, with many of them having already announced their intentions to acquit the president.
Source: CNN – Daily Mail
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