Pentagon official starts impeachment testimony after GOP protest causes 5-hour delay

Five hours after it was scheduled to begin, a top Pentagon official provided testimony in the Capitol, where dozens of House Republicans had blocked her Wednesday morning deposition to protest the procedures underlying the Democrats' impeachment probe.

Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, had arrived in the Capitol well before the 10 a.m. closed-door hearing was slated to start. A short while later, dozens of Republicans — none of whom were members of the three committees of jurisdiction — stormed into the secure meeting room to protest what they argued was a lack of transparency governing the impeachment process.


"This should have happened in the light of day, and every member should be able to have input," said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHarris introduces bill to prevent California wildfires McCarthy says views on impeachment won't change even if Taylor's testimony is confirmed House Republicans call impeachment hearing 'boring,' dismiss Taylor testimony as hearsay MORE (R-Calif.), who endorsed — but did not participate directly — in the sit-in.

"When you're talking impeachment, you're taking about removing a duly elected person from office. You should have due process," he added.

The list of protesting Republicans included a number of House Freedom Caucus members, such as Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzGaetz wants woman who threw drink at him to serve time Schiff told Gaetz to 'absent yourself' in fiery exchange: impeachment transcript Do Republicans understand the Constitution? MORE (R-Fla.), and at least one member of GOP leadership, Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseLive updates on impeachment: Schiff fires warning at GOP over whistleblower Bottom Line Trump allies assail impeachment on process while House Democrats promise open hearings soon MORE (R-La.).

Cooper was not in the deposition room when the wave of protesting Republicans arrived, according to lawmakers in the room at the time.

It's unclear how the hours-long standoff was resolved.

House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving was seen going into the secure room around 2:30 p.m. But Democrats had rejected the idea that they would demand the physical removal of protesting Republicans, even as House rules stipulate that such depositions are limited to members of the relevant committees.

Cooper was summoned to testify because she would have had a hand in overseeing the military aid to Ukraine that President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE had withheld over the summer. That decision is a key component of the Democrats' impeachment inquiry, particularly after a whistleblower's allegations that Trump had dangled the funds to pressure Ukrainian leaders for political favors.

Cooper did not deliver opening remarks when her testimony finally began Wednesday afternoon, according to lawmakers in the room.

Behind Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy READ: Top NSC aide Tim Morrison's closed-door impeachment inquiry testimony Top NSC aide puts Sondland at front lines of Ukraine campaign, speaking for Trump MORE (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Democrats have been charging ahead with their impeachment investigation. While they haven't put a timeline on the process, Democrats have said they would like to move "expediently" toward a yet unknown conclusion.