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End the duopoly

Inside, But Mostly Outside, the Impeachment Chamber of Secrets

Two heavy wooden doors thud to a close, echoing across the marble underbelly of the U.S. Capitol.

The click-boom as the door latches signifies movement in and out of the SCIF, a congressional situation room of sorts, where witnesses to the events that imperil Donald Trump’s presidency are ushered in and out with militaristic efficiency past a crush of clamoring reporters and photographers.

This is the proverbial room where it happens — a storied and mysterious place in which witnesses spill secrets that could lead to the third impeachment in U.S. history — and no one on the outside will ever know the full extent of what transpired.

As Republicans gleefully point out, the Trump impeachment inquiry can best be understood by those doors, emblazoned with a scarlet sign reading “Restricted Area — No public or media access.”

For weeks, we’ve spent entire days stationed outside the SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, pronounced skiff) waiting.

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And waiting.

And waiting, hoping to catch a glimpse of the men and women who submit to lawmakers’ interrogation and, if we’re lucky, a morsel of new information from a lawyer or a lawmaker who might be in the mood to dish.

And that’s how the story of the Trump impeachment is being written. Most of what you know about the effort to remove the 45th president of the United States has been cobbled together haphazardly by a band of haggard, underfed and sleep-deprived congressional reporters scrounging for slivers of information in a corridor where the WiFi barely works and cell service is a crapshoot.

Winning often comes down to superior logistics and, more often, sheer luck. A major break in the public’s understanding of the impeachment of the president can be as simple as being positioned smartly when a chatty lawmaker breaks toward the nearby elevator bank or beelines for the spiral staircase that leads up toward the publicly accessible rooms of the Capitol.

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