A scheduler for Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) was unceremoniously fired this week after an investigation found that she was also working on behalf of the Chinese embassy to attempt to set up meetings between the embassy and Capitol Hill staffers who were working on bills the embassy wanted to weigh in on.
From National Review, which broke the story Friday morning:
A source familiar with the situation said that the House sergeant at arms (SAA) notified Beyer’s office on Tuesday that Hamlett had requested meetings with different congressional offices on behalf of people at the Chinese embassy, after staffers in other offices reported being contacted by her. The SAA’s office was apparently aware of two requested meetings “in the context of meals,” including at Charlie Palmer Steak, a popular restaurant near the Capitol.
Barbara Hamlett, the scheduler, was persistent in her efforts to get staffers to meet with Chinese embassy staff.
One congressional aide told NR that after he ignored several emails from Chinese embassy staff requesting a meeting about one of his boss’s bills earlier this year, Hamlett, a 34-year veteran of Capitol Hill, called his office and then showed up in person, asking him to step outside for a conversation.
“So she comes to my office and asks that we step out into the hallway, and she says she is friends with the embassy and that they have been trying to get in contact with me,” the congressional aide said, on condition of anonymity. She wanted to schedule a lunch. He agreed to coffee.
But when the aide showed up for the meeting in June, Hamlett didn’t participate in the discussion. In fact, she sat at a different table with a female embassy staff member, NR was told. The aide then had a one-on-one discussion with a male embassy staffer, who was “talking about one of my boss’s bills. They do not like it.”
So, she facilitated meetings for representatives from a foreign government to harass and probably intimidate Congressional staffers over bills China doesn’t like. Seems like a big problem.
Beyer, who is one of the more hawkish Dems in Congress regarding China, was not aware that any of this was happening until Tuesday.
“Congressman Beyer was totally unaware of these activities prior to being contacted by the House Sergeant At Arms,” Aaron Fritschner, his deputy chief of staff, told National Review in a statement this morning. “As soon as he learned of them, he followed every directive he was given by security officials. The staffer in question is no longer employed by the office of Congressman Beyer.”
Those directives included taking no action until the SAA could contact federal counterintelligence officials. Once Beyer’s office was informed that that “consultation was complete,” they conducted their own investigation into Hamlett’s activities and terminated her employment once that investigation, which confirmed “that she indeed attempted to facilitate meetings between Chinese embassy staff and congressional staff in the offices of at least two Republican congressmen.”
Beyer’s spokesman emphasized to National Review that Beyer “has been an outspoken critic of China’s record on human rights — including their crackdown in Hong Kong and their oppression of the Muslim Uyghur population in Xinjiang — as well as an advocate for Tibet, and a vocal supporter of Taiwan” and that he will continue to do so, saying:
While Congressman Beyer had no inkling of this staffer’s actions and acted promptly upon learning of them, he understands that his constituents may be shocked to learn of this, just as he was. He pledges to them that he will remain a fierce critic of China’s record, continue to oppose the CCP’s totalitarian repression of its citizens, and hold himself and his staff to the highest professional and ethical standards.
As to Hamlett herself, the National Review piece notes that she is a 34-year Capitol Hill veteran, but a look at Hamlett’s LinkedIn raises a few questions. From her “About” section (all spelling and punctuation is as-published):
My name is Barbara Jenell Hamlett and I retired from the U.S. Congress in late 2008 with thirty years of service. Although I have been gone for a few years, I am still actively involved with several Congressional offices on many levels – on both sides of The Hill as well as both sides of the aisle. I can’t stay away!! My reputation and credentials are widely recognized on Capitol Hill as you can see as I have worked for veteran Members of Congress including the late Senator Arlen Specter (PA), recently retired Rep. Diane Watson of Los Angeles, current Democratic National Committee Vice Chair, Rep. Mike Honda of San Jose, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas, Rep. Ed Towns of Brooklyn and Rep. Charles Rangel of Manhattan where my career on The Hill began in 1978 (shortly after graduating from George Mason University with a Bachelors in Political Science).
So, Hamlett retired in 2008, and no paid employment is shown again until 2015. She was a volunteer for Terry McAuliffe in 2014, which is probably when her “about me” narrative was written since it references Rep. Mike Honda as being the “current Democratic National Committee Vice Chair.” What did she do between 2008 and 2014, and why would she return to full-time employment at age 64? It surely couldn’t have been the $61,500/year salary.
National Review reports that a source familiar with the investigation says that as a scheduler, Hamlett didn’t have access to sensitive national security information. However, all knowledge is power. Hamlett observed all of the comings-and-goings in the office, knew with whom Beyer – chair of both the Joint Economic Committee and the space subcommittee of the Science, Space, Technology Committee – was meeting and why, and clearly could’ve communicated all of that to the Chinese government.