Dozens of House Republicans stormed a secure hearing room where lawmakers are conducting impeachment proceedings and demanded entry but were denied by “Democratic leadership,” they said Wednesday.
The excluded GOP lawmakers sit on panels that are not officially invited to closed-door interviews of Trump administration officials whose testimony Democrats believe will show wrongdoing by the president. The lawmakers in the closed-door proceeding were interviewing Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper.
“A whole bunch of Republican Congress members who were duly elected just tried to get in to find out what is going on in their closed hearings, because we were elected to Congress and we don’t even know what is going on,” Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko of Arizona said.
Lesko sits on the House Judiciary Committee, which is one of the six committees originally tasked with conducting an impeachment inquiry by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
But Pelosi, a California Democrat, has narrowed access to the closed-door questioning to the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees, and the proceedings have been closed to the public and the press.
Republicans demanded House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who is running the proceedings, allow them inside.
Schiff, a California Democrat, refused to speak to the GOP lawmakers seeking admission.
“He left,” Republican Rep. Roger Marshall of Kansas said. “He just go up and left. He doesn’t have the guts to tell us why we can’t be in the room, why he doesn’t want this to be transparent.”
Marshall called the closed-door investigation “the biggest farce of my life,” and other Republican lawmakers lined up to condemn the secrecy.
“To disregard, to repudiate, close to 60 million Americans in the 2016 election, if they are going to do that, do it in public,” said Rep. Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican. “Show your faces so we can all see the travesty you are trying to foist on America.”
Schiff and Pelosi have defended the process by equating the panels in the closed-door inquiry to a grand jury and Schiff to the role of prosecutor, acting much like former special counsel Robert Mueller.
Schiff said public hearings will take place and transcripts will be released at some point.
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