WASHINGTON – Hours before the first public impeachment hearing for President Donald Trump began, media, staff, interns and the general public lined up Wednesday outside the House Ways and Means Committee hearing room, eager to catch a glimpse of history in the making.
There was no shortage of media presence covering the hearing. When walking through the main entrance to the Longworth House Office Building, avoiding the press was impossible; cameras were staked out at every entrance, and reporters lined themselves up and down the hallway, often being asked by the Capitol Police to move along to avoid congestion.
Inside the hearing room, there was limited seating for the media and the public, which meant those who didn’t have reserved seating were let in on a first-come, first-served basis, or as seats became available.
While national news organizations like CNN and MSNBC earned special seating in the hearing room, lesser known and foreign media sources had to fight for seating. The diversity of media outlets helped highlight the significance of the hearing worldwide.
Among the reporters was drag comedian and singer Pissi Myles, who took her first stab at political reporting for Happs, a TV outlet that targets 16- to 25-year-olds, in an unconventional way.
“I’m doing comedic commentary on it (the hearing),” Myles said. “One of the content creators at Happs came to one of my shows in New York City and he said, ‘I love your show, you’re very funny, and I’d love it if you would come to the impeachment hearings this week.’ And I was like, ‘OK.’”
The younger generation doesn’t necessarily look to major news outlets, Myles said, but it certainly does not limit their engagement. That was apparent with a group of five high schoolers who traveled from Connecticut to Capitol Hill with their Advanced Placement government class to witness in-person the topic of numerous class conversations.
Once the hearing began at 10 a.m. (EST), the excited chatter from people in line quickly turned to hushed tones as they tuned into the livestream of the hearing on their phones. Reporters strategized which door was best to camp out at, and every time the door would open to let someone in or out of the room, cameras clicked, hoping to catch a glimpse of the testimonies in real time.
Elyssa Dalaker, who stood in the back of the general public line, said she came to see “the president being brought to justice.”
“This is probably not going to be the most groundbreaking thing in the world, but I think it’s important that it’s finally brought to the public eye,” Dalaker said.
Some attendees had no intent of sitting in on the hearing; rather, they showed up to make a statement. Alessandra Mondolfi, clad in a sweatshirt that said “Arrest Trump,” traveled from Miami to Washington to express support for the U.S. Constitution.
“I am here as a concerned citizen, voicing my concerns for what’s going on and asking for it to go further than just impeachment,” Mondolfi said. “What we want is conviction and removal.”
Several people held signs in support of impeachment, but there were no obvious signs or protests in support of Trump, at least not Wednesday morning.
Mondolfi arrived in Washington 10 days before the hearing and stood outside the White House every day, holding banners that displayed Article II, Section IV of the Constitution, which describes impeachment proceedings.
“We have to express our support of the U.S. Constitution and do everything we can to protect our democracy,” Mondolfi said.
Being able to witness history firsthand was a common motivator among the general public who showed up Wednesday on Capitol Hill. Carol Campbell, president of Summit Preservation and Research Institute in Virginia, an organization dedicated to preserving history, said, “if you’re thirsty for knowledge, no one’s going to restrict you,” which is why she came out to the hearing.
“I like the fact that here in America, we can hear and have our own opinions,” Campbell said. “We’ve got every diverse side of what is reality these days, and we’re living history.”
Since 2015, Campbell began making photo collages on her phone of the big news stories of the day, and ever since the 2016 election, she found no shortage of news stories, saying that “it’s been going every single day since then.” Through studying history, she uses her collages to keep track of notable events, and makes the most of attending public hearings from her Virginia residence.
“I was able to go to the (Paul) Manafort trial at the courthouse, and when I finish here, I’m probably going to go to Roger Stone’s closing arguments today,” Campbell said. “This is a nation that’s being torn apart, and we have the power to do something about it and be informed.”
Ayelet Sheffey is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.