More than two dozen Republican House members stormed a closed-door hearing with a top Pentagon official on Wednesday morning in protest of the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump.
The storming stunt was staged a day after Trump had a White House meeting with members of the Freedom Caucus–who were among the Republicans storming the hearing–and has complained in recent days that Republicans have not been strong or vocal enough in their defense of him.
The House Republicans caused a five-hour delay, broke House rules, and compromised security by bringing cellphones and other electronic devices into the secure facility, where they are not allowed to protect sensitive information. One member, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, even tweeted from the secure hearing room, called the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF (pronounced “skiff”).
So who are these security-flouting congressmen and congresswomen? We rounded up a few that have graced our pages here at Right Wing Watch.
“I led over 30 of my colleagues into the SCIF where Adam Schiff is holding secret impeachment depositions,” Gaetz said on Twitter Wednesday morning. On Thursday, he compared himself to Spartans in the Movie “300,” telling TMZ, “We were like the 300s, standing in the breach to try to stop the radical left from storming over our democracy.”
Gaetz may now be best known for leading the stunt, but there’s plenty more to know about him. In 2018, he tried to impede efforts to count all the ballots in the tight Florida Senate race between Rick Scott and Bill Nelson. As Right Wing Watch’s Jared Holt reported at the time:
Gaetz told listeners of “Breitbart News Daily” on SirusXM that Republicans should push back on the vote-counting efforts without fear of outraging voters.
“If the Democrats were in charge and this was happening in a Republican county, do you think that those supervisors of elections would still have jobs? I mean, they’d be gone. They’d be out on their rear ends,” Gaetz said.
Gaetz said that Democrats will never “get better” and “treat us better,” so it’s important that Republicans “take the gloves off and fight like they do.”
Gaetz also pushed a conspiracy theory that the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee authored a secret memo that “proves that the Obama administration improperly sought to spy on Donald Trump and his presidential campaign,” Holt wrote in 2018. Gaetz appeared on the conspiracy-theory outlet Infowars to complain about being labeled a conspiracy theorist. Gaetz also pushed a conspiracy theory that progressive billionaire donor George Soros organized and funded a ”caravan” of migrants.
And in 2018, Gaetz brought Chuck Johnson, a right-wing political operative who has posted Holocaust-denying statements online, to Trump’s State of the Union address.
After storming the secure room, Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas reportedly started a shouting match with Democratic lawmakers.
Recently, Gohmert has claimed he knows the identity of the whistleblower who raised the red flag on Trump’s call to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which the U.S. president asked Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter. Gohmert’s assertion is based on a conspiracy theory involving the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike. But Gohmert is best known on our pages for homophobic remarks. In 2016, he said homosexuality was to blame for the flood described in the biblical story of Noah. Right Wing Watch’s Brian Tashman reported on a speech Gohmert gave on the House floor in 2016:
But due to the attacks on “natural order” and religious freedom, Gohmert said, “we don’t have much longer to go.”
Gohmert also cited the work of Jonathan Cahn, a far-right End Times preacher who believes God is punishing America (and France) due to gay marriage with events such as the 9/11 attacks, to assert that the end is near.
He also claimed that transgender people are disordered and “perverse” individuals who need help.
Gohmert also claimed that sexual abuse turned boys gay, stating in 2016, “the boys just seemed like, universally, they ended up feeling that they were gay.”
A fervent supporter of Trump, Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko stormed the secure Capitol room and expressed her outrage about how the impeachment inquiry process was being handled.
Lesko has boosted the CrowdStrike conspiracy theory and supported anti-vaccination conspiracy theories. In June, Lesko attacked social media companies that had made it harder for users to find anti-vaccination conspiracy theories. As the Daily Beast reported then:
A Republican lawmaker slammed Facebook and Google on Wednesday for making it harder to find anti-vaccine content on their platforms, calling the companies’ efforts to stop the spread of the conspiracy theories “really scary stuff.”
Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) attacked the platforms’ efforts at a House Homeland Security committee hearing on online terrorism and disinformation, where representatives from Google, Facebook, and Twitter faced their latest round of grilling from lawmakers.
Medical professionals and public officials have all warned that disinformation about vaccines (including a persistent and pernicious conspiracy that they can lead to autism) has fed public health epidemics. But Lesko suggested that anti-vaccine theories are just a difference of opinion.
“What you deem as inaccurate, I do not deem as inaccurate, or other people may not deem,” she said.
Lesko is also an anti-abortion activist and believes “God has put me on a mission,” to be anti-choice, Lesko said at Family Research Council’s “Pro-Life Con” earlier this year.
Andy Biggs, the former president of the Arizona Senate, was among those leading the charge to disrupt the hearing and called the hearings “secret, Soviet-style, Stalinist” on Wednesday. On Monday, Biggs forced a vote in the House to censure Rep. Adam Schiff, which failed.
In 2015, Biggs sat silent when the founder of the Oath Keepers, an anti-government militia group, called for the hanging of Sen. John McCain of Arizona. As Right Wing Watch reported at the time:
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes told a Phoenix television station yesterday that he called for the hanging of Arizona Sen. John McCain last week because McCain “is every bit as nuts as Adolf Hitler was.”
Rhodes made the comment while sitting next to Andy Biggs, the president of the Arizona Senate, who has said that he didn’t speak up because criticizing Rhodes would have violated his “free-speech rights.”
White supremacist Rep. Steve King of Iowa was also among the lawmakers who stormed the SCIF. King may be best known for comments he made to the New York Times earlier this year in which he defended white nationalism.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” he said in an interview with the New York Times. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
The New York Times reported:
At the same time, he said, he supports immigrants who enter the country legally and fully assimilate because what matters more than race is “the culture of America” based on values brought to the United States by whites from Europe.
But before his comments to the Times, King promoted white supremacists on his Twitter and has made other racist comments. In 2018, King quote-tweeted Lana Lokteff, who spread white supremacist hate on YouTube via the hate channel, Red Ice. Holt reported at the time:
In June, King promoted Mark Collett, a well-established British neo-Nazi. Additionally, King has a reputation for professing white-nationalist rhetoric about undocumented immigrants, once comparing them to livestock, and racial demographics in America, claiming “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”