A group of Republican lawmakers, frustrated with the impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s actions led by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., stormed into a secure hearing room where a witness was being deposed and forced the room to be cleared and swept for security bugs since the members violated security protocol by bringing their cellphones into the chamber.
“Today, a group of Minority Members of the House of Representatives, including Minority Members of the Committee of Homeland Security, intentionally brought their electronic devices into a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility),” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a letter to House Sergeant at Arms Paul D. Irving. “Such action is a blatant breach of security, violates the Oath all Members of Congress sign to gain access to classified information, and contravenes security controls established by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency for the protection of classified information.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., boasted on Twitter that he led more than 30 colleagues, including Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, “into the SCIF where Adam Schiff is holding secrete impeachment depositions,” noting he was “still inside” with “more details to come.”
Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee steered by Schiff, collected the lawmakers cell phones, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., told ABC News. But the damage was done and security was called in to sweep the room.
Some GOP members of Congress have complained that they’re being locked out of the impeachment inquiry probing whether President Trump abused the office of the presidency or pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden and have demanded access to witnesses.
The White House and the State Department have forbidden officials from being deposed by the House Intelligence Committee, but in the last two weeks, several significant figures, such as Bill Taylor, the U.S.’s top diplomat in Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the EU, have bucked those orders and appeared. Gaetz, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, was booted from an impeachment hearing last week while former Deputy Assistant to the President Fiona Hill testified.
Wednesday’s stunt, as Pentagon official Laura Cooper was set to be deposed, prompted Thompson to ask for swift action. “This unprecedented breach of security raises serious concerns for Committee Chairmen, including me, responsible for maintaining SCIFs,” said Thompson, urging Irving to “take action with respect to the Members involved in the breach” and, more broadly, “to take House-wide action to remind all Members about the dangers of such reckless action and the potential national security risks of such behavior.”