Wednesday, October 23, 2019

GOP storms secure room, demands more access to impeachment inquiry proceedings

By Gabriella Muñoz and Jeff Mordock | The Washington Times 

From left, Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa., Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., and Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, pose for a group photo on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 16

House Republicans on Wednesday stormed the secure room where lawmakers have been questioning impeachment inquiry witnesses, as their frustration with the closed-door proceedings mounts.

More than a dozen GOP lawmakers convened outside the meeting room and were promptly kicked out.

“This is an outrage,” Rep. Debbie Lesko, Arizona Republican, said.

The impeachment inquiry is centered on allegations that President Trump attempted to pressure Ukrainian President Zelensky to open investigations for his own personal gain, lead by the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight committees.

Only members on those three committees — Republicans and Democrats — have been allowed in the room to ask questions, a fact Democrats have been highlighting as they push back on GOP criticism.

Over the past two weeks, several Republicans not on those committees have tried to get access to the secret depositions and transcripts of those meetings, but this is the largest group to attempt it.

As of late Wednesday morning, roughly 20 Republican lawmakers refused to leave the secure hearing room where Defense Department official Laura Cooper was scheduled to testify.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida Democrat, said the sit-in has derailed Ms. Cooper’s testimony and it was unclear when it would start again. Ms. Cooper was not in the room at the time, she said.

Democratic lawmakers leaving the room said those that entered the room brought their cell phones, which is against the rules for a secured area.

“They had no regard for the witness or making sure we can continue to hold the president accountable and ensure we can get to the bottom of this,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said. “If they don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to the substance of evidence, they have to argue process.”

However, as the minority party, Republicans don’t have many options to force their hand.

“It’s really unfortunate that they [Democrats] have the votes and apparently they are not following any procedures, any precedents, any rules,” Ms. Lesko told The Washington Times.

“I’ll tell you what, if we are in the majority, I would not allow this kind of unfair process to go on,” she added.

For weeks Republicans have slammed the process as a “sham” that has shut the American people out of the process by keeping the meetings with witnesses behind closed doors. They’re repeatedly demanding Democrats need to hold a vote to authorize the investigation and accused those running the investigations of ushering out “cherry-picked” leaks.

They’ve decried what they see as a lack of due process for the president, arguing the identity of the whistleblower that first put forward the allegations should be revealed.

“House Democrats are bypassing constitutional norms and basic standards of due process with their impeachment obsession,” Rep. Mark Walker, North Carolina Republican, said. “The president is not above justice. But, as you know, neither is he below it.”