Congressman Matt Gaetz & Fellow GOP Members Backtrack On Twitter Amid Criticism For Storming Into Secured Area

GOP Representative Matt Gaetz leads a group as they disrupt an impeachment inquiry hearing
Alex Wong / Getty Images

Things got pretty wild in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday as a group of Republican members of Congress interrupted a closed hearing. Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz lead a group of about two dozen Republicans who disrupted a hearing where Defense Department official Laura Cooper was about to begin her deposition. Interestingly, Gaetz and some other GOP representatives involved in the effort quickly seemed to shift gears as people across Twitter lambasted the disruption.

Gaetz and a number of others who stormed into the secured room where Cooper’s testimony was about to begin violated strict rules about taking electronic devices into the room. The area where the hearing was being held is called a “Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility,” or “SCIF,” and it is highly restricted to prevent unauthorized access to classified information.

Rep. Gaetz’s Twitter page shared updates throughout the ordeal about what was going on. However, there was an additional tweet in the midst of all of the chaos claiming that the posts were from Gaetz’s staff, not the congressman himself. That belated disclaimer likely came because Gaetz using his phone to tweet from inside the SCIF would be a major violation of the rules.

According to Politico reporter Andrew Desiderio’s Twitter page, sources told him that many of the House Republicans did take their cell phones into the SCIF, a blatant violation of the rules.

Rep. Alex Mooney of West Virginia was filmed holding his cell phone up and filming as he marched into the SCIF with the rest of the GOP group. Mooney also posted an audio clip to his own Twitter page noting that he was reporting from inside the SCIF.

A few other Republicans also backtracked and said that staff members were posting these updates on Twitter. However, some people across social media wondered how the staff members could be getting the real-time updates to share if the GOP representatives were saying they weren’t using their cell phones from the SCIF.

It did not take long for others who have experience with this highly-secured setting to speak out on Twitter about what a serious security breach this is. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who is a veteran of the Armed Forces, shared his reaction on Twitter.

“I used to work in a SCIF, as a military officer. The importance of keeping it secure (i.e. from cell phone signals) was drilled into us so deeply that I’d have bad dreams about accidentally leaving my phone in the pocket of my uniform. This behavior is an embarrassment.”

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As this contentious situation played out, CBSNews reporter Olivia Gazis shared via Twitter that the House Parliamentarian ruled that those GOP members who participated in this did violate House rules. It seems that Gaetz and others were asked or told to remove their electronic devices from the SCIF, and at least some of them refused to cooperate.

Gazis has since noted that the secure spaces were swept by security and subsequently cleared of unauthorized devices and members of Congress.

At this point, it doesn’t appear that Rep. Matt Gaetz or the other GOP representatives who joined him in this effort will necessarily face any consequences for breaching these rules. However, it sounds as if there could still be some consequences to come as the dust settles.