GOP Congressman Stands By Accusation Some Fellow Members Have Been Compromised

Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee said on a right-wing podcast in December that blackmail would explain some of his colleagues’ votes.
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One of the more colorful conservative members of the U.S. House told HuffPost he stands by recent remarks in which he said some of his fellow members were likely victims of blackmail.

But Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), who made the comments on a Dec. 21 podcast with a right-wing commentator, declined to elaborate on who he was talking about or give any other details.

“You as a member of the media understand confidentiality, and I appreciate that, and I am going to keep that confidential unless those people tell me otherwise,” Burchett told HuffPost on Thursday.

Asked if he was standing by his comments, Burchett said, “Sure. I’m not going to back up.”

And when asked if he believed there were House members who had decided how to vote based on compromising material about them held by foreign powers, Burchett said, “Absolutely. And other powers. It doesn’t have to be foreign powers.”

On “The Benny Show” podcast, hosted by Benny Johnson, Burchett said, without pointing to specific evidence or names, that powerful people protect their own interests by blackmail.

“The old honey pot. The Russians do that. And I’m sure members of Congress have been caught up. Why in the world would good conservatives vote for crazy stuff like what we’ve been seeing out of Congress?” he asked.

He said members may be on a trip or at a bar, meet someone and buy them a drink.

“Next thing you know, you’re in a hotel room with them, naked. Next thing you know, you’re about to make a key vote, and what happens? Some well-dressed person comes up and whispers into your ear, ‘Hey, man, there’s tapes out on you. Were you in a motel room on whatever with whoever?’ And then you’re, like, ‘Uh-oh.’ And they say, ‘You really ought not be voting for this thing.’”

“They know what to get at. If it’s women, drugs, booze — it’ll find you in D.C. And other elected offices,” he told Johnson.

(Johnson was fired in 2014 from BuzzFeed, the parent company of HuffPost, after 40 instances of plagiarism were found in his work.)

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) talks with reporters Dec. 14 outside the U.S. Capitol.
Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) talks with reporters Dec. 14 outside the U.S. Capitol.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Burchett’s remarks were the most lurid accusations since former Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) alleged, also without evidence, that he had witnessed anti-drug addiction leaders doing cocaine and had been invited by colleagues to orgies in Washington. Cawthorn’s claims were widely derided, and he lost his primary election in 2022.

Burchett, elected in 2018 and a former mayor and state legislator, has a reputation as one of the more friendly and quotable members of the House, often calling fellow lawmakers, reporters and even random visitors to the Capitol “brother.”

He’s also been interested in government activities regarding “unidentified aerial phenomena,” the new moniker for what used to be called UFOs, unidentified flying objects. Burchett said he’s less interested in “little green men or the saucers” than in why the government is spending money on an issue it says does not exist.

Burchett also drew attention as one of eight House Republicans to vote to depose former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Before McCarthy left Congress, he and Burchett got into a loud confrontation after Burchett accused McCarthy of elbowing him while passing behind him in a Capitol basement hallway.

On the blackmail allegations, Burchett said he would not “disclose what somebody has told me, something in confidence,” nor would he go to the authorities unless he received permission as well.

He said his allegations should not make people think all lawmakers were compromised, however, even if they reinforce the most cynical views of Washington.

“They’re not all crooked. The vast majority of people up here do the right thing. They just get caught in bad situations. That’s all,” he said.

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