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 McCarthyOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Trump names Pence to lead coronavirus response McCarthy: White House coronavirus funding request 'a little low' 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) GaetzBottom Line Graham: Trump has 'all the legal authority in the world' to pardon Stone Meghan McCain after Gaetz says Trump should pardon Roger Stone: 'Oh come on' MORE (R-Fla.), and at least one member of GOP leadership, Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseHouse passes historic legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Republicans root for Sanders nomination in battle for House Scalise after Democrat asks for examples of Sanders supporters 'being bad': 'I can think of an example' 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 TrumpTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Trump nods at reputation as germaphobe during coronavirus briefing: 'I try to bail out as much as possible' after sneezes 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 SchiffHillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Hillicon Valley: Democrats cancel surveillance vote over pushback to amendments | Lawmakers grill Ticketmaster, StubHub execs over online ticketing | Democrats cancel surveillance vote over pushback to amendments 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.