A House Democratic staffer was fired after her outreach to other congressional aides allegedly on behalf of the Chinese embassy was revealed this week, National Review has learned. After an investigation found that the staffer had acted improperly, her boss, Representative Don Beyer, swiftly removed her.
“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.”
Fritschner added that Beyer, who has a hawkish record on China, was “deeply upset” upon learning about the activities of the now-former staffer, Barbara Hamlett. He said 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.” The Virginia Democratic congressman traveled to Taiwan in August, soon after House speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the country.
Fritschner said that Beyer will continue to counter the Chinese Communist Party, claiming he had no knowledge of the staffer’s activities:
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.
The comments came in response to an inquiry from NR concerning allegations about the outreach efforts by Hamlett, who was employed as a scheduler. Congressional sources had told NR earlier that Hamlett had sent emails to, placed phone calls to, and even showed up at the offices of other congressional staffers in order to invite them to meetings with Chinese embassy staff in recent months.
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.
The SAA’s office initially asked that Beyer refrain from taking any action until it could contact federal counterintelligence authorities.
Then, later on Wednesday, this source said, the office told Beyer’s team that that consultation was complete. At that point, Beyer’s office investigated Hamlett’s behavior, finding that she indeed attempted to facilitate meetings between Chinese embassy staff and congressional staff in the offices of at least two Republican congressmen, which had reported the matter to the SAA. Hamlett was fired when the Beyer investigation concluded.
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.”
In recent weeks, NR has learned, Hamlett had also attempted to schedule a separate meeting between a Republican aide and a Chinese diplomat after that aide had, likewise, ignored emails from Chinese embassy staff.