House Republicans stormed a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) on Wednesday morning, ignoring House rules protecting national security, to protest the closed door impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump.
At this stage of the inquiry, only lawmakers on the House Oversight, Foreign Affairs, and Intelligence Committees are privy to the testimony regarding impeachment. Republicans have routinely decried the use of closed door hearings in the initial stages of the inquiry, accusing House Democrats of hiding information, despite the fact that 47 Republicans are overseeing the inquiry with Democrats.
The hosts of Fox & Friends gleefully seized upon the narrative that Republican obstruction was a brave act of civil disobedience, playing Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" over video of the lawmakers storming the SCIF.
Luckily, Fox News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano was there to sober them with some facts about closed hearings.
"As frustrating as it may be to have these hearings going on behind closed doors, the hearings over which Chairman Schiff is presiding. They are consistent with the rules."
He went on:
"The rules say that this level of inquiry, this initial level of inquiry, can be done in secret....
This is like presenting a case to a grand jury, which is never done in public."
Napolitano pointed out that the last changes to House rules were in January of 2015, signed by then-Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, and enacted by a Republican majority.
An incredulous Brian Kilmeade accused Democrats of making up whatever rules they want, to which Napolitano responded:
“Secret evidence doesn’t work in this world, so eventually there will be a public presentation of this, at which lawyers for the president can cross-examine these people and challenge them. So I get it, the Republicans are frustrated, they wanted to make a point and they made their point, but this is just not the most effective way to show respect for what your colleagues are doing.”
House Republican Darrell Issa (CA) held closed-door hearings regarding the Fast and Furious scandal in 2012, and was himself ejected from closed-door hearings regarding Benghazi by his Republican colleague Trey Gowdy (SC). Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who lead the protest on Wednesday, participated in closed-door hearings regarding the Mueller Report just this Summer.
As Napolitano pointed out, closed-door hearings in the beginning stages of an inquiry are completely standard.
And in fact, as Benghazi chairman Trey Gowdy said himself, closed hearings can be more useful than open hearings.
Republicans participating in the protest were heavily criticized for bringing personal devices into the SCIF as well—a major violation of national security protocol.