Rep. Brad Wenstrup: Why House GOP boycotted virtual hearing on Big Tech

GOP members boycotted a virtual House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) hearing on foreign election meddling because it was held in a facility that was not secure and "inappropriate," Ohio Republican Congressman Brad Wenstrup explained Friday morning.

In an interview on "Fox & Friends First" with host Jillian Mele, Wenstrup said that Republicans sat out in protest because they were worried the virtual hearing could potentially serve as a foot in the door for any U.S. adversaries hoping to take a glimpse of sensitive national "secrets.".

"You know, in the Intelligence Committee, our obligation is to work in private. We are more often to be seen rarely and even more rare to be heard from," Wenstrup stated.

REPUBLICANS BOYCOTT HEARING ON FOREIGN ELECTION MEDDLING, CITING SECURITY CONCERNS

"Although this may not be classified material, it is also a chance for our adversaries to understand what steps we are taking to try and stop them from foreign influence," he remarked. "You know, on the Intelligence Committee, we deal with sensitive secrets. We should be operating in a secure facility. And, we should not be in an environment where we are online."

Despite security concerns, representatives from Google, Facebook, and Twitter were present at the hearing and gave testimony on the various ways each website is working to combat misinformation and foreign interference on their platforms ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., right, speaks with Ranking Member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., left, before a House Intelligence Committee hearing on national security implications of climate change on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., right, speaks with Ranking Member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., left, before a House Intelligence Committee hearing on national security implications of climate change on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said during the Thursday hearing that conservative members on the committee had decided to skip "without reason or justification," and that he hoped they would consider joining future hearings.

He added that whether committee members are working remotely or in person, "these hearings and supplemental roundtables are official business and integral to our responsibilities in the classified and unclassified realms" and "the American people have the right to expect" the committee to do its work.

According to Wenstrup, however, the feeling among Republicans was that the manner of the hearing was "just one more step in Chairman Schiff's playbook to politicize things, to split us further apart, and to use it for some type of political gain."

"There [is] no reason we couldn't have had this in a secure facility," he asserted. "But, right now Democrats don't seem to want to come back to Washington."

Wenstrup told Mele that while Senate Democrats have returned to vote in the District of Columbia, House Democrats are pushing to vote by proxy -- a move Republicans are challenging "constitutionally."

"I had a Ways and Means Committee hearing last week and Ambassador Lighthizer was present in the room. I was present in the room," he continued.

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"We can go back. We can do it safely. It can be done. We don't have to be doing...this virtual thing where we put ourselves at risk for being out there basically online on the Internet and subject to being hacked," Wenstrup urged.

"And so, it's not the appropriate thing. It's not appropriate in the Intelligence community to communicate in this way and to hold hearings in this way. And, Adam Schiff should be called out for that," he concluded.

Fox News' Audrey Conklin contributed to this report.