Congressman Andy Biggs was among the Republican congresspeople who stormed a secure facility in the basement of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday where House investigators have been deposing witnesses in an inquiry into President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine.
Someone sent multiple tweets from Biggs' official Twitter account while the congressman occupied the facility, raising questions about the lawmaker's compliance with a rule prohibiting cellphone use in a room that bans electronic devices.
The demonstration delayed the deposition of a Department of Defense official.
The political stunt also raised national security concerns after several reports arose of lawmakers bringing their cellphones into the room, which is prohibited. Known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), the room is specially designed to prevent electronic surveillance and leakages of sensitive information.
Politico reported that the room had to be "fully swept for potential security breaches" after the congresspeople gained entry to the SCIF. The website also reported that some Republicans refused to turn over their phones even after getting reprimanded by the House's Sergeant at Arms.
While most of the Republicans who stormed the SCIF left shortly after entering the room, Arizona Representative Andy Biggs was among a group of "about 15 Republican members" who defiantly remained in the facility as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff threatened to file ethics complaints against them.
Biggs and his Republican colleagues criticized Schiff for holding private hearings with witnesses who have confirmed details in a whistleblower complaint that President Trump withheld foreign aid from Ukraine to pressure its leader into investigating Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's son.
Calling the SCIF a "secret, Soviet-style, Stalinist chamber," Biggs claimed that Schiff and House Democrats have denied Republicans access to the impeachment hearings in the SCIF. In reality, Republicans who sit on the three House committees are permitted to attend depositions in the SCIF related to the impeachment inquiry.
The official Twitter account of Biggs posted a series of "reports" while the congressman occupied the SCIF, leading to questions of how the congressman was able to send Tweets while remaining in a room that prohibits electronic devices.
After Democrats and nationals security experts criticized the SCIF stormers for bringing phones into the facility (including a Republican congressman who tweeted an audio recording from the room), Biggs tweeted that any tweets while he was in the facility were "transmitted to staff for publication."
All tweets sent out when I’m in the SCIF are being transmitted to staff for publication.— Rep Andy Biggs (@RepAndyBiggsAZ) October 23, 2019
It's unclear how Biggs transmitted his messages and his press secretary, Daniel Stefanski, did not respond to request for comment.
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The congressman's explanation became the target of ridicule.
The congressman must be using a carrier pigeon to let his staff know what’s happening https://t.co/7rPqDbMWel— Paul Szoldra (@PaulSzoldra) October 23, 2019
Translation: I've realized we screwed up and am trying to cover my ass https://t.co/djJCWk4Wqv— Draculeah Greenberg (@Leahgreenb) October 23, 2019
On October 22, Biggs led a failed vote of censure against Schiff.