Republicans storm closed-door hearing to protest impeachment inquiry

House Republicans stormed a closed-door hearing Wednesday to protest Democrats' impeachment inquiry process, breaking up the deposition of a top Defense Department official who was testifying about President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report MORE's dealings with Ukraine.

"They crashed the party," said Rep. Harley RoudaHarley Edwin RoudaDemocrat Harley Rouda advances in California House primary Let engineers make engineering decisions on local infrastructure projects EPA pushes back on Oversight review of ethics program MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the Oversight and Reform Committee, one of three House panels leading the impeachment probe.

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Dozens of Republicans, including some members of leadership like House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTop GOP lawmakers push back on need for special oversight committee for coronavirus aid Pelosi forms House committee to oversee coronavirus response Pelosi scrambles to secure quick passage of coronavirus aid MORE (R-La.), barged into the secure hearing room in the Capitol basement where Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, was set to provide private testimony. The deposition got underway after a five-hour delay.

Several lawmakers said that, in response to the Republican protest on Wednesday morning, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump defends firing of intel watchdog, calling him a 'disgrace' Democrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog Trump fires intelligence community watchdog who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint MORE (D-Calif.) left the room with Cooper and postponed her interview.

“The fact that Adam Schiff won't even let the press in — you can't even go in and see what's going on in that room," Scalise told reporters outside the hearing room. "Voting members of Congress are being denied access from being able to see what's happening behind these closed doors, where they're trying to impeach the president of the United States with a one-sided set of rules, they call the witnesses.”

GOP Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneSessions to face Tuberville in Alabama GOP Senate runoff This week: House eyes vote on emergency coronavirus funding The 14 other key races to watch on Super Tuesday MORE (Ala.), Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) Gaetz2020 on my mind: Democrats have to think like Mitch McConnell Harris knocks Gaetz for taking issue with money for Howard in relief package Critics hit Florida governor over lack of 'sweeping' coronavirus response MORE (Fla.), Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertTop conservatives pen letter to Trump with concerns on fourth coronavirus relief bill Lysol, disinfecting wipes and face masks mark coronavirus vote in House The Hill's 12:30 Report: What we know about T stimulus deal MORE (Texas) Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingTop conservatives pen letter to Trump with concerns on fourth coronavirus relief bill Castro forms PAC, boosts five House candidates Man sentenced for throwing glass of water at Steve King MORE (Iowa) and members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus also entered the room.

“When we walked in, they looked dumbfounded and the room just came to a stop," Byrne told The Hill. "And we lined up along the wall or sat in chairs expecting them to do something. And after several minutes, Adam Schiff got up and just walked out. And while he was walking out I said, 'Don't go.’” 

Republicans have repeatedly blasted Democrats for choosing to only allow members of the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees to attend the hearings and depositions, arguing the information and transcripts should be made available to all members given the gravity of the consequences of impeachment.

They have also accused Democrats of selectively leaking information from those hearings to the press.

Rep. Roger MarshallRoger W. MarshallOn the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Kobach says he discussed his Senate bid with Trump Senate Democrats outraise Republicans, but GOP has cash edge MORE (R-Kan.) said Schiff said “nothing” after Republicans forced their way into the hearing room.

“He doesn’t have the guts to come talk to us,” Marshall said. “He left, he just got up and left. He doesn't have the guts to tell us why we can’t come in the room, why he doesn't want this to be transparent. It’s the biggest facade, biggest farce of my life.”

But Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) said Schiff postponed the hearing as he left the room. Waltz also said Schiff was “threatening” GOP members with ethics violations.
 
Some of the Republicans who barged into the hearing room were in possession of cellphones, a violation of the rules governing the so-called sensitive compartmented information facility, known as the SCIF, where the depositions have been taking place.
 
 
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Wasserman Schultz, who said Cooper was not in the room when the Republicans entered, added that impeachment probe has "far too much fact for their comfort level, so they have to try to stop it from moving forward."
 
The move by House Republicans comes a day after another witness, top diplomat William Taylor, testified that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine to pressure the country to conduct a pair of investigations — one into 2016 election hacking, the other into the family of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSome Sanders top allies have urged him to withdraw from 2020 race: report Sunday shows preview: As coronavirus spreads in the U.S., officials from each sector of public life weigh in Trump defends firing of intel watchdog, calling him a 'disgrace' MORE — that might have helped Trump's reelection campaign next year.

Scalise on Tuesday led more than 50 GOP members in a floor speech rally railing against impeachment efforts. The previous day, Trump called on Republicans to be more vocal in their defense of him as Democrats push forward with their impeachment efforts.

Some Democrats were outraged by GOP lawmakers bringing cellphones and cameras into a secure room.

"In short, they have compromised the security of the room. And they not only brought in their unauthorized devices, they may have brought in the Russian and Chinese with electronics in a secure space," Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellKey House chairman cautions against remote voting, suggests other options amid coronavirus outbreak House Democrats plead with key committee chairman to allow remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic Congress tiptoes toward remote voting MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters.

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Guidance on masks is coming Meadows sets up coronavirus hotline for members of Congress The Hill's 12:30 Report: McConnell, Pelosi at odds over next relief bill MORE (R-N.C.), a member of the Oversight Committee and a key Trump supporter, suggested the concerns over the cellphones were overblown.

“There's no cameras or phones in the SCIF, so I think that those phones actually went in, just because everybody went in,” Meadows told reporters. “I can tell you I actually collected phones and brought them back out. You certainly want a secure environment but at the same time I think everybody wants to hear exactly what's going on.”


“We want to hear from this witness but so do the other members of Congress," he said. "This may be within House rules, that’s not the question. The question is, is it a good idea to try and impeach the president in secret hearings?”
 
Asked whether Republicans will attempt to enter other closed-door hearings, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyPelosi scales back coronavirus infrastructure proposal Democrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Top GOP lawmakers push back on need for special oversight committee for coronavirus aid MORE (R-Calif.) told reporters that the GOP “will continue to fight to find information because we have a responsibility to our constituents and we will not be denied that.”
 
Other Republicans who took part in the action included Reps. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerThe Hill's 12:30 Report: House to vote on .2T stimulus after mad dash to Washington Top GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition Freshman Dem finds voice in fight against online extremism MORE (N.C.), Jody HiceJody Brownlow HiceTop conservatives pen letter to Trump with concerns on fourth coronavirus relief bill GOP lawmaker requests information on release of inmates in New York Top GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition MORE (Ga.), Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksRepublican group asks 'what is Trump hiding' in Times Square billboard Conservative group hits White House with billboard ads: 'What is Trump hiding?' Trump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race MORE (Ala.) Buddy CarterEarl (Buddy) Leroy CarterLoeffler works to gain traction with conservatives amid Collins primary bid Republicans came to the table on climate this year Republicans storm closed-door hearing to protest impeachment inquiry MORE (Ga.), Doug LaMalfaDouglas (Doug) LaMalfaOvernight Energy: Panel gives chairman power to subpoena Interior | House passes bill to protect wilderness | House Republicans propose carbon capture bill | Ocasio-Cortez introduces bill to ban fracking House passes Protecting America's Wilderness Act Koch campaign touts bipartisan group behind ag labor immigration bill MORE (Calif.), Alex MooneyAlexander (Alex) Xavier MooneyOvernight Defense: House passes bills to rein in Trump on Iran | Pentagon seeks Iraq's permission to deploy missile defenses | Roberts refuses to read Paul question on whistleblower during impeachment trial Here are the lawmakers who defected on Iran legislation House votes to rein in Trump's military authority MORE (W.Va.), Gary PalmerGary James PalmerTop GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition Trump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race GOP protest overshadows impeachment hearing MORE (Ala.) and Bill JohnsonWilliam (Bill) Leslie JohnsonBy opposing a sham impeachment, I upheld my oath of office A solemn impeachment day on Capitol Hill GOP lawmaker holds moment of silence on House floor for people who voted for Trump MORE (Ohio). 
 
 
Updated at 4:34 p.m.