Two days after being denied entrance into the Department of Justice and then being chased away by protesters, four Republican lawmakers probing the conditions of the inmates arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol have been barred from a facility where 50 of the prisoners are said to be held.
Reps Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) showed up at the D.C. Central Detention Facility on the morning of July 29. The lawmakers have been inquiring into reports that those involved in the incursion into the Capitol have been severely beaten, held in solitary confinement, and denied access to evidence about their own cases.
The members of Congress were allowed into the lobby but were quickly told by a corrections officer that they were trespassing.
“You’re obstructing,” the corrections officer could be heard saying on a live broadcast streamed by the Right Side Broadcasting Network (RSBN).
“My gosh, the government is upside down,” Gohmert said in response.
The corrections officer indicated to the members of Congress that her supervisor would speak to them outside. But when the lawmakers went outside, they found that they were then locked out of the building in what Gaetz called a “bait and switch.” Gaetz attempted to reenter the facility, but was denied—along with an attorney who was trying to enter to see a client.
“The supervisor came down, was standing right here, but she turned her back on me,” Gohmert said. “The other one won’t talk to me.”
Gohmert said he and his colleagues gave the facility advance notice that they would be attending—he didn’t say how far in advance—but they never received a response. He said there shouldn’t be anything preventing members of Congress from examining the facilities over which they have oversight, as he has done numerous times in the past.
The Republican lawmakers expressed dismay at what they said were authoritarian tactics displayed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and D.C. Department of Corrections.
“We’ve turned a corner. We’re in a totalitarian, Marxist territory here,” Gohmert told RSBN correspondent Liz Willis.
“The federal employees here spent more time taking videos and photos of us than they spent trying to give us the opportunity to do what members of Congress do every month of the year: to review a federal detention facility,” he said.
“If this is any indication of how they’re treating the prisoners inside, I’m very concerned,” Greene said.
The lawmakers left the facility to go vote on Capitol Hill. Around 1 p.m., they reconvened outside to talk to reporters and others about their experience that morning.
Greene said that any lingering doubts she had about the reports of abuse are now removed, and she’s convinced that the Jan. 6 inmates and other prisoners there are being mistreated.
“I’m not just concerned for the Jan. 6 defendants. I’m concerned for all of the people in that prison,” she said. “Because we showed up, walked in, and were told we were trespassing. … We vote to fund these facilities!”
Gohmert proposed the idea of defunding federal facilities that don’t accept congressional oversight and allocating those funds to local jurisdictions to house federal inmates.
The lawmakers’ failed attempt to enter the correction facility comes two days after they were prohibited from entering the DOJ. On the afternoon of July 27, they held a brief press conference to list a number of unanswered questions they have about the Jan. 6 inmates—before being run off by left-wing protesters.
Gohmert said they haven’t heard back from the DOJ since then, bringing the number of their unanswered queries to the DOJ and corrections officials to at least seven.
“The AG [attorney general] and the head of the federal bureau of prisons cannot hide forever. Ultimately, if they won’t answer the door when we go to them, then they’re going to have to come to us,” Gaetz said. “That’s how Congress works.
“The longer they delay in answering these questions, the more suspicious it looks.”