House Republicans irate about the ongoing impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump stormed the secure rooms on Capitol Hill where depositions were due to be taken Wednesday morning, delaying the proceedings and forcing a showdown with Democrats in charge of the investigation.
As of mid-day, between 15 and 20 Republican lawmakers who are not on the committees leading the inquiry were still inside the so-called Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, in the basement of the Capitol. One observer reported that snacks were being delivered to the holdouts.
Democrats in charge of the hearings, among them House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff of California, threatened the GOP interlopers with ethics violations for bringing mobile phones into the highly secure area — a major breach of House rules.
The stunt, led by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, comes just days after Trump called on Republican lawmakers to “get tough and fight” against what he has assailed as a “witch hunt.” It’s also one day after some of the most damning testimony yet in the inquiry. Tuesday, the current ambassador to Ukraine confirmed that Trump held up military aid to that country until officials there agreed to open an investigation against Joe Biden and other Democrats.
Republicans leading the charge want the impeachment proceedings to be more transparent and open. They have acknowledged that conducting the depositions of key witnesses behind closed doors is consistent with House rules but believe the closed-door nature of them is unfair to the President and his supporters.
Before the intrusion, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper appeared for testimony. As of mid-day, it remained unclear when and how the proceedings would continue.