OAN Roy Francis
UPDATED 2:25 PM – Thursday, March 30, 2023
Senate security officials are changing their policies, and have implemented new steps in order to protect the secrecy of senators during their weekly closed-door lunches.
The changes in security policies come after a contract employee was arrested and accused of recording audio of a Republican lunch meeting in the Capitol in early March. Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) spoke about the incident which was previously kept from the public.
“It’s really concerning,” she said. “Those conversations are an opportunity for senators to talk candidly about issues. So to have people on record and easily identifiable by their voices is problematic.”
A 25-year-old man was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for “interception/use of a wire tap,” however the charges were later dismissed and the man was released.
The former employee had said that he set his phone to record “for multiple hours” during the Republican lunch on March 7th. The employee had claimed to be married to the Liberian vice president and had wanted to “provide his ‘wife’ with American political information.”
The employee went back with a police escort to retrieve the phone, but a senator had already spotted it and turned it over to authorities.
However, no evidence was found to support his claim of being married to the vice president of Liberia and the Liberian Embassy did not respond to a request for comments.
The employee had also reportedly “gathered trash” from the Republican meeting which included “a slideshow of information that was talked about in the event.”
“It was a temporary person hired on by the food service people. The phone was left in the record mode found in the food line,” Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told NBC. “It’s very concerning.”
The person was hired by At Your Service, a food service and bartender provider along the East Coast. The company provides staffing for Senate lunches and food services on the Senate side of the Capitol.
Sam Souccar, the senior vice president of Creative Services for Restaurant Associates provided NBC with a statement saying that the activity was in “direct violation” of their policies and that they have “appropriately handled” the issue.
“This activity is in direct violation of our policies, let alone the appropriate decorum and respect we expect of anyone serving the Senate community,” he said. “We can confirm the issue has been addressed and appropriately handled.”
Senate lunch meetings are often used by both parties in order to discuss strategies for upcoming votes. The meetings and what happens during them are usually kept secret, except for the occasional leak to the media.
One of the new security policies will require workers to leave their cellphones in cabinets outside the meeting rooms before they are able to enter Senate lunches.
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