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Political Notebook

Two Republicans fined for bypassing security just days after House approved the new penalties

Members of the House of Representatives must now pass through a security check with metal detectors before entering the chamber.
Members of the House of Representatives must now pass through a security check with metal detectors before entering the chamber.J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Two Republican House members have been fined $5,000 for bypassing the security screening that was set up outside the House chamber in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, a senior Democratic aide said Friday.

The lawmakers, Representatives Louie Gohmert of Texas and Andrew Clyde of Georgia, appear to be the first members punished under a new rule approved by the House on Tuesday night.

Spokespeople for Gohmert and Clyde did not respond to requests for comment, but Gohmert issued a statement Friday night, explaining that he had stepped out to use the restroom and did not know that he needed to be rescreened on his way back in.

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’'Unlike in the movie The Godfather, there are no toilets with tanks where one could hide a gun, so my reentry onto the House floor should have been a non-issue,’' Gohmert said in the statement.

According to the new rules, lawmakers who bypass the metal detectors that have been installed outside some doors to the House chamber will be fined $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for each subsequent offense.

Gohmert called the policy ’'unconstitutional’' and vowed to appeal the fine, citing a portion of the Constitution known as the Speech and Debate Clause that provides lawmakers immunity from arrest for things they say or do during a speech or debate in Congress. The clause is specifically designed to protect the legislative branch from interference by the president or executive branch agencies, and to insulate members from lawsuits and prosecutions based on actions carried out as part of their official duties. It is unclear what if any bearing it would have on Capitol security policies adopted by members themselves.

On Friday, Republicans on the Committee on House Administration alleged in a letter to the House sergeant at arms, the official tasked with imposing the fines, that ’'multiple members’' saw House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, enter the building without completing security screening and called on him to hit her with the $5,000 penalty.

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Acting sergeant at arms Timothy Blodgett responded that Capitol Police had not submitted a complaint about Pelosi violating the policy.

Washington Post

Trump’s access to sensitive briefings will be determined by intelligence officials, White House clarifies

WASHINGTON — The White House on Saturday said President Biden’s comment that his predecessor should not receive intelligence briefings was not a final decision on the matter, which will instead be resolved by intelligence officials.

Biden made his views known during an appearance on “CBS Evening News” with Norah O’Donnell. Asked whether former president Donald Trump should receive the briefings, as is customary for ex-presidents, Biden said, “I think not.”

“What value is giving him an intelligence briefing?” Biden said in a portion of the interview aired Friday. “What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?”

Biden has the unilateral authority to deny intelligence access to anyone he chooses, and his remarks seemed to suggest he considered Trump enough of a risk to do so. But his aides said he would leave that decision to his intelligence team.

“The president was expressing his concern about former president Trump receiving access to sensitive intelligence, but he also has deep trust in his own intelligence team to make a determination about how to provide intelligence information if at any point the former president Trump requests a briefing,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement issued Saturday.

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Psaki, when earlier asked whether the Biden administration would cut off Trump’s access to the sensitive material, said the matter was “under review.” The Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not respond Saturday to a request for comment. A spokesman for Trump also did not respond to requests for comment.

Former presidents do not receive the same classified daily briefing as a sitting commander in chief. Still, their briefings are typically delivered by current intelligence officers — partly out of respect and convention and partly to prepare them if their advice is solicited or if they’re representing the administration abroad.

Explaining his reasoning for wanting to withhold the information from his predecessor, which would be without precedent, Biden said, “because of his erratic behavior unrelated to the insurrection.”

Washington Post

President offers pep talk to woman who lost job

WILMINGTON, Del. — President Biden gave a pep talk to a California woman who was laid off because of the coronavirus pandemic, during a conversation the White House said is part of an effort to help him engage more consistently with regular Americans.

The White House on Saturday released a two-and-a-half-minute video of Biden’s long-distance telephone conversation with a woman identified only as Michele. After losing her job at a startup clothing company in July, she wrote Biden a letter. He read it, then called her.

The Roseville, Calif., woman told Biden “it’s been a tough time’' trying to find work.

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Biden, who spoke from his Oval Office desk, replied that his father used to say a job is about dignity and respect as much as it is about a paycheck. He described his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, which calls for $1,400 payments to people like Michele, and other economic aid for individuals and small businesses. There’s also money to help distribute coronavirus vaccines.

“I’ve been saying a long time, the idea that we think we can keep businesses open and moving and thriving without dealing with this pandemic is just a nonstarter,” Biden said.

The conversation is part of an effort to help Biden, who has largely limited his travel because of the pandemic, communicate directly with Americans, the White House said. Biden did fly to Wilmington, Del., on Friday to spend the weekend at home with his family.

Associated Press