House Republicans on Wednesday forced their way into a closed-door hearing in opposition to lawmakers questioning a Defence Department official regarding the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, briefly shutting the meeting down.
Republican lawmakers, including leader figures like House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, convened outside the room where the meeting was being held, informing reporters that they would attempt to enter the closed-door deposition on Trump's impeachment.
Outside the hearing room, Scalise told reporters: “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"
"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”.
WATCH: here's the video of when 2 dozen GOP members, led by @mattgaetz entered the secure hearing room (SCIF) to interrupt witness testimony in the #ImpeachmentInquiry as they demand access, despite not being committee members. They're complaining it's a "Soviet-style process". pic.twitter.com/8KddYz3r9D— Scott Thuman (@ScottThuman) October 23, 2019
Laura Cooper, US deputy assistant secretary of Defence for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, was the official being questioned at the Trump impeachment hearing.
According to the Hill, lawmakers claim House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff left the room with Cooper and postponed the interview indefinitely in response to the Republican's action.
Democratic Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly confirmed that the interview was postponed and that the Democrats were “consulting [with the] Sargent at Arms".
Following the incident, Republican Lindsey Graham distanced himself from the group saying “that’s not the way to do it” with regard to the actions of the GOP House members, according to a report by The Associated Press.
However he did clarify that he did not like the process being conducted behind closed doors and demanded that transcripts of all impeachment inquiry interviews be made available to the public.
Some of those who occupied the hearing room were in possession of cellphones, a violation of the rules of the so-called Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF). This led to Democrats being angered by GOP lawmakers who brought in the "Russian and Chinese" to a confidential sitting via mobile phones, according to Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell.
Republican Mark Meadows from North Carolina, a member of the Oversight Committee and a supporter of the president, said that concerns over cellphones were exaggerated.
“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”.
The representatives attempting to enter the interview do not sit on the committees involved in the Trump impeachment process and are barred from all inquest gatherings.
This incident comes after Trump urged Republicans on Monday to “get tougher and fight” the rapidly-developing impeachment inquiry launched by the House of Representatives.
Impeachment proceedings began on 24 September, by House Democrats after a complaint was issued by a whistleblower who claimed that during a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July, Trump allegedly attempted to pressure Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Allegations of corruption against Joe Biden concern whether he intentionally had a Ukraine attorney general removed to prevent an investigation into his son and Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings.