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Republican lawmaker erupts at Biden administration officials during Israel briefing

Rep. Derrick Van Orden

WASHINGTON — Rep. Derrick Van Orden, R-Wis., aggressively confronted Biden administration officials Wednesday during a classified briefing about Israel, according to a Democratic lawmaker who was in the room and another source.

Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., and a source familiar with the situation said Van Orden approached the Biden officials during a question-and-answer part of the briefing. Chu and the other source said that instead of asking questions, Van Orden attacked the administration’s presentation and shouted obscenities at the officials.

The officials conducting the briefing included Victoria Nuland, the acting deputy secretary of state; Sasha Baker, the acting undersecretary of defense for policy; and Morgan Muir, the deputy director of national intelligence for mission integration.

Politico first reported Van Orden’s outburst.

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The eruption prompted Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., who was scheduled to ask the next question, to apologize for his GOP colleague’s behavior. Crow’s apology drew widespread applause from the crowd of lawmakers in the room, Chu said.

“He was really quite obnoxious, saying that they had nothing of value to say,” Chu said of Van Orden. “In fact, afterwards, Jason Crow apologized to them and said basically that it was uncalled-for, and everybody in the audience clapped.”

Van Orden accused the officials of not understanding the situation in Israel, Chu said.

“He said that he had done two tours in the Middle East,” she said. “He was basically implying that he was the expert and they were not.”

Van Orden, who has served in Congress since January, is a retired Navy SEAL who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., did not mention Van Orden by name, she told reporters that she decided to leave the briefing early because the subject matter had become too political.

“People want to call out failures of the administration in a time when we really, as a country, need to be united, and it makes it very difficult to have bipartisanship when you have one party that is simply focused on dividing at every term,” Jayapal said.

Chu said that despite Van Orden’s comments, she felt that the briefing was useful, and she said his harsh tone was not appropriate under the current circumstances.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on the incident at the briefing with reporters Wednesday.

Van Orden’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Democrats and fellow Republicans condemned Van Orden over the summer after he allegedly yelled at a group of Senate pages. They had been lying on the floor of the Capitol Rotunda, taking photos of the dome’s ceiling 470 feet above them, a Senate page tradition, according to former pages.

Van Orden was leading a tour at the time and called the pages “jackasses” and “pieces of s—,” according to a transcript issued by a page minutes after the incident and first reported by The Hill newspaper.

CORRECTION (Oct. 11, 2023, 10:10 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misspelled the first name of a representative from Washington. She is Pramila Jayapal, not Pramilia.

Ryan NoblesRebecca Shabad

Rebecca Shabad is a politics reporter for NBC News based in Washington.

Monica Alba and Frank Thorp Vcontributed.

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