The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is officially underway in the Senate, and there are a few rules of decorum in place designed to keep senators focused on the historic task at hand. The only beverages allowed in the Senate Chamber during the trial are water (fine) and milk (I have questions). The only food senators can partake in is from an under-the-radar candy stash. Phones and other electronic devices are prohibited.
This all makes sense, except for the milk thing: The orders exist to prevent distractions. But a handful of senators have been spotted wearing their Apple Watches in what appears to be a flagrant disregard for the rules. Or maybe they just forgot to take them off.
Either way, Republican Sens. John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Lee (Utah), Tim Scott (South Carolina), Jerry Moran (Kansas), John Thune (South Dakota), and James Lankford (Oklahoma) were all seen in the Senate chambers going about their business wearing what are clearly electronic devices, according to Roll Call. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) was also spotted wearing her watch.
This is kind of a big deal, because the Bluetooth version of the Apple Watch can connect on its own to a wifi network, which means senators will still get messages and app notifications that could interfere with the impeachment proceedings. The cellular version of the Apple Watch is basically a smartphone, though good luck to any senator who tries to keep cellular-enabled for an entire trial day—the watch’s 18-hour battery life is already not that great, and a constantly active cellular connection sucks up even more of it.
The Apple Watch also prompts you to stand 10 minutes til the hour, every hour. Are the watch-wearing senators going to respond to the device’s insistent vibrations and get up in sync? (The visual alone would be worth it.)
It’s probably not great that senators are able to view Fox News headlines or check their text messages surreptitiously on their wrists, just like I can do during an incredibly boring meeting. The only benefit to an Apple Watch in this scenario is that Twitter no longer makes a watch app, so scrolling through Trump’s early-morning rampages is a little tougher to manage on the small screen—though not impossible with third-party apps.
The Supreme Court also bans Apple Watches, Roll Call noted, but it seems like the highest court in the land actually enforces its rules. Maybe the Senate should take some notes.
Correction: This story previously referred to Senator Patty Murray as Patty Murphy. That is not her name. We regret the error. (1/22/20 1:20pm EST)