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.

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"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 McCarthyDon't let Trump distract us from the real threat of his presidency Overnight Health Care: Five takeaways from Fauci's testimony | CDC: Children might play 'important role' in spreading COVID-19 | GOP leader wants rapid testing at Capitol GOP leader wants to make rapid testing available at Capitol 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) GaetzHillicon Valley: House panel grills tech CEOs during much anticipated antitrust hearing | TikTok to make code public as it pushes back against 'misinformation' | House Intel panel expands access to foreign disinformation evidence Five takeaways as panel grills tech CEOs New HBO documentary lets Gaetz, Massie, Buck offer their take on how to 'drain the swamp' MORE (R-Fla.), and at least one member of GOP leadership, Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseFive takeaways from Fauci's testimony Trump is wrong on census memo — but has a point Trump hits 'Stone Cold' Democrats over push to undo travel ban 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 TrumpOklahoma City Thunder players kneel during anthem despite threat from GOP state lawmaker Microsoft moving forward with talks to buy TikTok after conversation with Trump Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled 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 SchiffDemocrats exit briefing saying they fear elections under foreign threat Nunes declines to answer if he received information from Ukraine lawmaker meant to damage Biden Hillicon Valley: House panel grills tech CEOs during much anticipated antitrust hearing | TikTok to make code public as it pushes back against 'misinformation' | House Intel panel expands access to foreign disinformation evidence 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.