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Posted by on Oct 23, 2019 in Impeachment, Law, Politics | 0 comments

Republicans (with Trump’s encouragement) storm closed-door impeachment hearing

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If there could be a slogan or campaign bumper sticker for Trump supporters in Congress it should be “Norms,shmorms..” A major norm was shattered today by some Trump supporting GOPers in Congress when a group of them — with Donald Trump’s encouragement — stormed a security facility where impeachment hearings were underway. The hearings were delayed for five hours. And their actions not only violated the law but were another sign of how our political and societal “givens” are not necessarily “givens” by those who support or enable Donald Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party.

The HuffPost:

In the latest attempts to make a circus out of the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s dealings with the Ukrainian government, a contingent of House Republicans stormed a secure room in the Capitol basement Wednesday, disrupting a deposition and violating House rules by bringing in their phones into a secure area.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), whose chief of staff sent an email to Republican legislators’ offices last week about entering the guarded committee room, led the group of roughly 30 lawmakers into the Intelligence Committee’s secure area. And because the Republicans, who are not members of the committee, brought phones and other electronics into the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), Democrats said the room would now have to be “sanitized.”

“They not only brought in their unauthorized bodies, they may have brought in the Russians and the Chinese,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the Intelligence Committee.

Swalwell added that some Republican members held onto their phones even after the Sergeant at Arms asked that they remove them from the area. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) later reported that he personally collected phones from Republicans and took them out of the SCIF.

The storming of the committee room came as the Intelligence Committee was set to interview Laura Cooper, a Pentagon employee who oversaw Ukrainian issues. Cooper was in the room as Republicans barged through the door, and committee staff moved her into another area. Republicans have complained for weeks that the committee isn’t allowing non-members to sit in on proceedings or review transcripts, and they say there needs to be transparency with the whole process.

Democrats argue that, while investigating Trump’s efforts to get the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, it’s imperative that witnesses not have the ability to coordinate stories. They also say that the testimony will eventually be made public, and there will also be public proceedings.

The Daily Beast:

The gambit—cooked up by the pro-Trump brawler Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and endorsed by House GOP leadership—derailed the closed-door deposition of Laura Cooper, a Pentagon official with jurisdiction over Ukraine policy, before it even started. And it left Democrats indignant that their colleagues had violated long standing rules about interviewing witnesses in classified settings.

Cell phones, for example, are not allowed in Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (also known as SCIFs). But the Republican members who barged into those facilities had taken their phones with them inside the room. Lawmakers and aides said that, as of noon on Wednesday, the SCIF was being swept for electronic surveillance devices because the Republicans brought in their phones, delaying the start of Cooper’s deposition. Democrats were also contemplating whether to bring in the U.S. Capitol Police in order to drag out the protesting members.

The standoff began shortly after a press conference in the morning, in which GOP members denounced what they called Democrats’ “sham” impeachment process—a complaint that they’ve made central to their impeachment pushback.

In a scheme that drew parallels to the infamous Brooks Brother riots that upended the 2000 Florida recount, Gaetz led about 25 House Republican lawmakers into the secure basement SCIF, where bipartisan members of the three committees leading the impeachment inquiry—and only members of those three committees—are allowed to go during the impeachment investigation.

According to Democratic lawmakers in the room, the Republicans blew past police officers to enter the room and began shouting once they got there, loudly denouncing the process and impeachment in general.

Close to two hours after they first went in, a core group of Republicans remained there, according to a tweet from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ). The number two House Republican, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), was with them. Three hours into the standoff, the Republican crew remained—and they had ordered pizza from We The Pizza, a Capital Hill joint.

“They’re a bunch of brave freedom fighters having pizza in a secure conference room,” complained Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ).

And the House Minority leader tried to normalize it:

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy appeared to excuse the lawmakers who brought their cell phones into the secure area, telling POLITICO: “These are individuals who have never been in Intel Committee before or anywhere else. So it’s nothing serious from that matter.

Democrats describing the scene were visibly frustrated and vowed that the Republican effort would not throw their impeachment inquiry off course. They said the stunt showed that Republicans were reeling from Tuesday’s testimony by William Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, who directly tied Trump to a quid pro quo with the eastern European nation involving critical military aid.
“It’s completely inappropriate. When the facts are against you, the law is against you, the president clearly committed a crime, you’re left with arguing the process,” said Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.), who witnessed the chaos unfold behind closed doors.

“It’s a bunch of Freedom Caucus members having pizza around a conference table pretending to be brave,” added Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), referring to the hard-line conservative group. “All they basically did here was to storm a castle that they already occupied.”

The GOP stunt, led by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), comes as Trump has demanded that Republicans “get tough and fight” for him in the impeachment probe. But Republicans have struggled to defend Trump on the substance of the allegations against him, and have instead focused on hammering Democrats over what they see as an illegitimate impeachment process.