Chaotic scene as Republican lawmakers disrupt deposition
Washington DC: Republicans briefly brought the Democrat-led impeachment investigation to a halt when around two dozen GOP House members stormed into a closed-door deposition with a Defense Department official.
Democrats said the move compromised national security because some of the Republicans took electronic devices into a secure room.
The protest by Republican lawmakers on Wednesday captured national attention, drawing the focus away from the testimony of a top U.S. diplomat who told lawmakers just a day earlier that he was told President Donald Trump was withholding military aid from Ukraine unless the country's president pledged to investigate Democrats.
The maneuver delayed a deposition with Laura Cooper, a senior Defense Department official who oversees Ukraine policy, until mid afternoon.
The interview began roughly five hours behind schedule, after a security check by Capitol officials, and ended after roughly four hours.
As a series of diplomats have been interviewed in the impeachment probe, many Republicans have been silent on the president's conduct. But they have been outspoken about their disdain for Democrats and the impeachment process, saying it is unfair to them even though they have been in the room questioning witnesses and hearing the testimony.
"The members have just had it, and they want to be able to see and represent their constituents and find out what's going on," said Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform panel.
That committee is one of three leading the investigation, and its members are allowed into the closed-door hearings.
Lawmakers described a chaotic scene. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said she had just walked into the room when the Republican lawmakers blew past Capitol police officers and Democratic staffers.
The staff member who was checking identification at the entrance was "basically overcome" by the Republicans, she said.
"Literally some of them were just screaming about the president and what we're doing to him and that we have nothing and just all things that were supportive of the president," Wasserman Schultz said.
Later when the deposition began, Cooper answered questions from lawmakers and staffers in response to a subpoena, an official working on the impeachment inquiry said.