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
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
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.
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.”