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House Republicans May Have Committed Some Light Treason

by Jim Swift
October 23, 2019
House Republicans May Have Committed Some Light Treason
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23: Flanked by about two dozen House Republicans, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) speaks as House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) (L) listens during a press conference at the U.S. October 23, 2019 in Washington, DC. Rep. Gaetz held the press conference to call for transparency in impeachment inquiry. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A few months ago, internet personalities devised a plan to storm Area 51.

As the logic went: if enough of us storm a 1,300 square mile facility, they can’t stop us all. Which was true enough, I guess.

On Wednesday a group of House Republicans decided to take a page from America’s real influencers and storm the impeachment inquiry.

Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-InfoWars), led a few dozen members of the House Republican caucus to Naruto run a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, inside the U.S. Capitol complex in order to perform a sit in.

The majority rules in the People’s House and there are rules. Gaetz and his co-conspirators are suggesting that Republicans have been shut out from the testimony being given in the impeachment inquiry because it’s being done in a classified setting to the House. It’s important to underscore that this simply is not true.

The Republican members of Congress who sit on the committee either were (or should have been) in this SCIF. The hearing is closed not to “Republicans” but to all members who are not on the relevant committee. And the members of the relevant committee come from both parties.

Gaetz and his colleagues weren’t just protesting, though. They compromised a secure area. This is not just foolish, but reckless. It’s like storming Area 51, except instead of idiot social media celebrities doing it for the engagement, it’s elected political representatives doing it to get airtime on Fox.

If you’ve never been in a SCIF, and 99.9 percent of Americans have not, it’s basically like being put in a rubber room prison that’s wrapped in a Faraday Cage. The whole point of the SCIF is that nothing gets in and nothing gets out that isn’t planned and accounted for. There are a few hundred of these facilities scattered throughout official Washington—the FBI, CIA, and Pentagon obviously need them—but only a couple on the Hill.

You are not, under any circumstances, supposed to bring electronic devices into a SCIF. You can understand why. Members of Congress are not like the president, getting their phones rigorously checked by security personnel for signs of compromise. The device protocol for the average member of Congress aren’t that much more security-conscious than your mom’s.

So, in an effort to defend President Trump, Gaetz and company stormed the SCIF to disrupt the hearing and they didn’t just byob their own devices—they likely used them to show off on Twitter.

You will note that after claiming, in the first person, to be “in” the SCIF, both Gaetz and Walker flipped and, well after the fact, claimed that their tweets were not from “inside the room,” but from “staff outside.” Either way, one of these claims is a lie.

Not that it matters which is which. Because either way, as Mieke Eoyang, a former congressional staffer who worked on national security issues, put it this way: House Republicans endangered national security in an attempt to cover for President Trump.

We have reached a point where the political interests of the president run counter to the security interests of the nation. Or maybe we’ve been at that point for a long time. It’s just that now, other elected Republicans are admitting it through their actions.

Jim Swift

Jim Swift is a senior editor at The Bulwark.