Yesterday the congressman for Florida led a mob of fellow Republicans through a highly secure facility of the U.S. Capitol where Laura Cooper, the Pentagon's top official on Ukraine, was testifying in the impeachment inquiry. The probe revolves around accusations that President Donald Trump enlisted Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden — his political rival — and Biden's son Hunter in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the foreign country. Gaetz whined that, despite long-standing protocols, all members of Congress should be allowed to sit in on Cooper's deposition.
The debacle kicked off with a morning news conference where Gaetz protested what he and other Republican lawmakers believe to be a lack of transparency surrounding the closed-door depositions. Gaetz declared he and his colleagues were "going in there."
CNN reported that Gaetz and his gang of two dozen members of Congress barged into the secure room through three doors. Yelling ensued, and Gaetz's merry band of Republican lawmakers refused to leave. Cooper's deposition was delayed by five hours, but she ultimately gave her testimony.
I’m gathered here with dozens of my congressional colleagues underground in the basement of the Capitol.— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) October 23, 2019
If behind those doors they intend to overturn the results of an American presidential election, we want to know what’s going on. #StopTheSchiffShow pic.twitter.com/c9Ks9VneYt
The room Republicans breached, known as the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), is designed to protect against electronic surveillance and leaks of national security and military information. Smartphones aren't allowed inside SCIFs because their microphones and cameras can be hacked. But several news outlets have reported some members of the Gaetz-led group took their cell phones into the facility.
WATCH: here's the video of when 2 dozen GOP members, led by @mattgaetz entered the secure hearing room (SCIF) to interrupt witness testimony in the #ImpeachmentInquiry as they demand access, despite not being committee members. They're complaining it's a "Soviet-style process". pic.twitter.com/8KddYz3r9D— Scott Thuman (@ScottThuman) October 23, 2019
Only members of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight committees — those conducting the impeachment inquiry — were allowed in the secure area. Gaetz and others complained that all members of Congress should be included in the inquiry regardless of the committees on which they serve. Stupidly enough, more than a dozen of the legislators who went along with Gaetz's PR stunt serve on the impeachment-overseeing committees and were allowed to attend the hearing, the Washington Post reported.
Yesterday wasn't the first time Gaetz tried to crash an impeachment deposition. Last week, he was booted from a hearing with Fiona Hill, the president's former adviser on Russia.
His most recent caper came two days after Trump said during a Cabinet meeting that Republicans needed to "get tougher and fight" for him, his presidency, and the GOP. So far, Trump hasn't tweeted about yesterday's events, although he retweeted a couple of video clips from the news conference.
Bloomberg reported that Trump knew of the scheme beforehand and approved of it. Gaetz, meanwhile, bragged he pulled off the stunt all by himself, like a big boy. Either way, he's one of the president's most enthusiastic defenders, and he continues to show there isn't much he won't do for Trump.
Beyond committing the crime of smugness, Gaetz orchestrated a serious breach of national security, according to some experts. Mieke Eoyang, a former staff director on the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted, "I cannot emphasize enough how serious this is."
This is false. I organized and led this press conference, including entering the committee room. I never discussed this with any White House official including the President. https://t.co/7D4XEpKdpr— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) October 23, 2019
"In 'storming the SCIF' without observing the security protocols, Rep. Gaetz et al, endangered our national security & demonstrated they care more about a political stunt than protecting intelligence information," she wrote.
As of this morning, #ArrestMattGaetz is still trending on Twitter.
So, to recap:— Mieke Eoyang (@MiekeEoyang) October 23, 2019
To disrupt testimony from a DOD official on how the President endangered national security for both the US and Ukraine by withholding military aid, the President's allies further endangered national security by storming the SCIF with their electronic devices.