Trump fanatic Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) led a swarm of his mostly tie-clad, middle-aged GOP peers to storm the secure room where testimony related to the impeachment inquiry was scheduled to be shared on Wednesday.
Matt Gaetz says he’s about to lead this phalanx of House Republicans into the SCIF to check out what’s going on with the whole impeachment thing pic.twitter.com/iFyxqMgcsr
— Sam Brodey (@sambrodey) October 23, 2019
The lawmakers were fueled by anger that they weren’t allowed to listen in on the testimony of top Pentagon official Laura Cooper, despite the fact that none of them sit on the committees overseeing the inquiry. Other firebrand Trump supporters — like Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Devin Nunes (R-CA) — do sit on the committees and were thus included in the closed-door testimonies.
Cooper’s testimony was delayed as the Republicans stormed the room.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who sits on the Intelligence Committee, said that Cooper was already in the hearing room when Republicans started streaming in.
“This is, as you can imagine, also an effort to intimidate witnesses who seek to come forward,” he said. “The witness was in the hearing room at the time Republicans started to come in. We did all we could to get the witness out, to make sure the witness was protected and not affected by these tactics.”
He added that many members refused to give up their electronic devices even when instructed to by the Sergeant at Arms, and that the space would have to be “sanitized” at some point, since they may have brought in the “Russians and Chinese” along with their own “unauthorized bodies.”
When pressed on the Republican talking point that closed-door hearings prevent transparency in the impeachment inquiry, Swalwell said that they had “evidence” that witnesses were communicating to “refresh their memory” before giving testimony, and that the private hearings in the first stage of the investigation were meant to avoid that occurrence.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), a member of the Oversight Committee, also spoke to reporters, saying that he didn’t know if Cooper would still testify Wednesday after the Republicans’ antics.
“As long as Chairman Schiff is going to have a closed session, it’s a waiting game to see if she does the deposition,” he said.
Addressing his peers’ dramatic tactics, he said that “sometimes you have to take unbelievable measures to make sure that due process and civil liberties are upheld.”
Though Meadows denied any coordination with the White House, a Bloomberg report published after the rogue Republicans had dispersed revealed that Trump did have advance notice of the plan, and gave it his blessing. Meadows denied that specific report, calling it “factually incorrect.”
Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), a member of the Judiciary Committee, confirmed later Wednesday afternoon that the Republican non-committee members had left the room, that the SCIF had been re-secured and that Cooper was still slated to give her deposition.
The Republicans who led the charge are likely attempting to change the narrative on the impeachment inquiry, which became extremely damning for President Donald Trump in the past 24 hours with top Ukrainian diplomat Bill Taylor’s testimony. Taylor laid out a clear picture of Trump and those in his close orbit pressing Ukrainians with a quid pro quo meant to politically puncture former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign with a manufactured scandal.
Tierney Sneed contributed reporting from Washington D.C.
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