House Democrats moved forward with an impeachment inquiry Wednesday, after dozens of Republicans barged into a closed-door hearing earlier in the day demanding efforts to remove President Donald Trump from office be transparent.
Five hours before the hearing resumed, over 30 Republicans stormed the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, a secret room where House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is running the impeachment inquiry.
The barrage resulted in the delay of depositions of top Pentagon official Laura Cooper.
Cooper, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, was slated to provide private testimony regarding Trump’s dealings in Ukraine, despite the Defense Department’s attempt to block her from appearing. Cooper ultimately decided to ignore the department’s request and comply with a subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee.
Cooper will be the eighth witness to speak to lawmakers in person since the impeachment inquiry launched in late September.
Republicans said they decided to confront Democrats and storm the deposition in protest of the Democrat’s refusal to make the hearing public.
At least 50 Republicans are going “face-to-face and demand access to ongoing impeachment proceedings,” but Adam Schiff insists on hiding the Democrat efforts to impeach Trump from the American people and “fled with the testifying witness,” said House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA).
“We’re going to try and go in there, and we’re going to try to figure out what’s going on, on behalf of the millions of Americans that we represent that want to see this Congress working for them and not obsess with attacking a president who we believe has not done anything to deserve impeachment,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R- FL) who led Republicans in their protest.
Americans deserve to know “what’s being said in this hearing as they brazenly attempt for no reason to impeach the President of the United States,” Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WVA) added.
The demonstration comes one day after members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus met with Trump at the White House.
Schiff’s probe is centered around investigating whether Trump engaged in quid pro quo with the Ukrainian government. Bill Taylor, the Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, alleged during testimony Tuesday Trump gave an ultimatum to Ukrainian officials, warning he would withhold military aid from the country unless Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky investigates a gas company linked to former Vice President Joe Biden’s son and election interference.
Democrats charged their GOP colleagues with jeopardizing national security and violating the House Intelligence Committee’s long-established protocol about interviewing witnesses in classified settings by storming into the hearing with their electronic devices. They also reportedly debated whether to call Capitol Hill Police to remove the protesting members from the SCIF.
In a letter sent late Wednesday to House Sergeant at Arms, Paul Irving, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), chair of the Homeland Security Committee, demanded “Members involved in the breach” be penalized and called on the committee to “remind all Members about the dangers of such reckless action and the potential national security risks of such behavior.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a statement claiming Republicans only staged the demonstration to draw attention away from Trump’s impeachable offenses.
“This stunt from House Republicans is designed to intimidate people from revealing the truth – hardly the hallmark of a democracy. It’s outrageous – but not surprising – behavior,” he said.
Mooney, however, explained that he and the other GOP protesters handed over their devices to security before entering the SCIF and recorded his account of the protest using a “secure phone.”
Prior to raiding the hearing, Republicans held a press conference early Wednesday morning, warning the Democrat impeachment efforts against Trump is a “sham.”
Americans should have access to all transcripts of interviews being conducted as part of impeachment, they argued.
Democrats, however, insist transcripts of the interviews will adversely affect their investigation.
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