Citing the need for "integrity," House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday that he will stick by his promise not to allow California Democrats Reps. Adam Schif and Eric Swalwell, on the powerful Intelligence Committee.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., sent McCarthy a letter over the weekend saying that the two were "eminently qualified" to serve. Schiff served as chair of the committee in the previous session when Democrats still held the majority.
"It is my understanding that you intend to break with the longstanding House tradition of deference to the minority party Intelligence Committee recommendations and deny seats to Ranking Member Schiff and Representative Swalwell," Jeffries wrote.
"I received a letter from the minority leader Hakeem Jeffries, about the Intel Committee," McCarthy said Tuesday in the press conference aired live on Newsmax.
"I will be sending him a response back a little later tonight," he said. "But let me be very clear, this is not anything political, this is not similar to what the Democrats did. Those members will have other committees, but the Intel Committee is different."
The Intel Committee is responsible for the national security of the United States, McCarthy said, indicating he doesn't see Schiff and Swalwell as worthy of that trust.
"Look, I respect Hakeem Jeffries' support of his conference and his people," he said. "But integrity matters."
Schiff, McCarthy said, has used the position of Intel chair as an opportunity for "lying to the American public again and again" when he promoted the Steele dossier that falsely linked then-candidate Donald Trump to Russia.
Swalwell's ties to a Chinese spy are behind McCarthy's reasoning to keep him off the panel.
"When Eric Swalwell would be in the private sector and can't get a security clearance there, we are not going to provide him with the secrets to America," McCarthy said. "Hakeem Jeffries has 200 other people who can serve on that committee. ... I'll put the national security ahead of partisan politics any day. I don't care if they're in my party or not, integrity matters."
Asked by Newsmax's Kilmeny Duchardt how Congress plans to investigate the apparent systemic failure to protect classified documents, McCarthy pointed to Congress' constitutional responsibility to oversee the Justice Department.
Earlier Tuesday, former Vice President Mike Pence became the latest to become public that classified documents had been discovered in his home. The news comes after former President Donald Trump's home in Florida was raided in August and after it came to light in January that President Joe Biden's lawyers had found documents in his office and home.
In Biden's case, some of the documents date from the time he served in the Senate, and McCarthy said he is perplexed how Biden or anyone else would have been able to get them out of the SCIF where members of Congress are allowed to view classified materials, but not remove them.
"I do not understand how a U. S senator can take a classified document out of a SCIF. If they're not stuffing it in their pants or somewhere," he said.
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