House Republicans on Wednesday stormed the secure room where lawmakers have been questioning impeachment inquiry witnesses, derailing a scheduled impeachment inquiry deposition.
More than a dozen GOP lawmakers convened outside the meeting room and were promptly kicked out, though many refused to leave.
Those remaining don’t appear to be leaving anytime soon. Pizza was delivered to the sit-in, a Republican aide confirmed.
“This is an outrage,” Rep. Debbie Lesko, Arizona Republican, said.
The impeachment inquiry is centered on allegations that President Trump attempted to pressure Ukrainian President Zelensky to open investigations for his own personal gain, led by the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight committees.
Only members on those three committees — Republicans and Democrats — have been allowed in the room to ask questions, a fact Democrats have been highlighting as they push back on GOP criticism.
Over the past two weeks, several Republicans not on those committees have tried to get access to the secret depositions and transcripts of those meetings, but this is the largest group to attempt it.
As of early Wednesday afternoon, the number of remaining noncommittal Republicans remained in the secure room where Defense Department official Laura Cooper was scheduled to testify. She was reportedly slated to discuss the issue of delayed military aid to Ukraine.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida Democrat, said the sit-in has derailed Ms. Cooper’s testimony and it was unclear when it would start again. Ms. Cooper was not in the room at the time, she said.
Democratic lawmakers leaving the room said those that entered the room brought their cellphones, which is against the rules for a secured area.
“In short they have compromised the security of the room,” Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell said. “Many members, dozens of members brought in electronics. And they not only brought in their unauthorized device, they may have brought in the Russian and Chinese with electronics in a secure space.”
“They had no regard for the witness or making sure we can continue to hold the president accountable and ensure we can get to the bottom of this,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said. “If they don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to the substance of evidence, they have to argue process.”
One Republican, David Rouzer of North Carolina, defended his colleague’s actions.
“We have a right as members of Congress to know what is going in there. None of this is classified information whatsoever,” he said.
However, as the minority party, Republicans don’t have many options to force their hand.
“It’s really unfortunate that they [Democrats] have the votes and apparently they are not following any procedures, any precedents, any rules,” Ms. Lesko told The Washington Times.
“I’ll tell you what, if we are in the majority, I would not allow this kind of unfair process to go on,” she added.
A few Republican lawmakers still in the secured area said House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff threatened to file ethics complaints against them, though Mr. Swalwell later declined to comment on what those complaints might look it.
Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, one of those tweeting updates, clarified that the tweets were not coming from inside the secured room but are being passed along to staff to post.
For weeks Republicans have slammed the process as a “sham” that has shut the American people out of the process by keeping the meetings with witnesses behind closed doors. They’re repeatedly demanding Democrats need to hold a vote to authorize the investigation and accused those running the investigations of ushering out “cherry-picked” leaks.
They’ve decried what they see as a lack of due process for the president, arguing the identity of the whistleblower that first put forward the allegations should be revealed.
“House Democrats are bypassing constitutional norms and basic standards of due process with their impeachment obsession,” Rep. Mark Walker, North Carolina Republican, said. “The president is not above justice. But, as you know, neither is he below it.”
House Democrats have launched their own defense of the investigation, arguing it’s akin to the special prosecutor investigations that were a part of the Nixon and Clinton impeachment.
Rep. Val Demmings, Florida Democrat, told reporters Wednesday the Republican claims were unfounded. Read more at Washington Times