President Donald Trump’s allies took to heart his request that Republicans start fighting back against House Democrats’ impeachment investigation, and one transcript released Friday vividly captures how one such lieutenant tried to crash the proceedings.
At the beginning of the closed-door testimony of Fiona Hill, the White House’s top Russia hand, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff notices a face out of place: Rep. Matt Gaetz, a flamethrowing congressman and Trump ally from the Florida panhandle.
According to the transcript, Schiff interrupts the opening statement of Rep. Jim Jordan, asking whether there is anyone in the room not on the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs or Oversight committees conducting the closed-door portion of the investigation.
“Mr. Gaetz, you’re not permitted to be in the room,” he notes.
When Gaetz asserts that he should be allowed in the room because “I am on the Judiciary Committee,” claiming that “I thought the Judiciary Committee had jurisdiction over impeachment,” Schiff asks him to “please leave.”
“Mr Chairman, really?” Jordan asks.
“Yes, really,” Schiff responds.
“You’re going to include Members of Congress on committees that have roles of impeachment —” Gaetz begins to respond, when Schiff interrupts him.
“Mr. Gaetz, take your statement to the press. They do you no good here. So, please, absent yourself,” he says.
“You’re going to have someone remove me from the hearing?” Gaetz responds, to which Schiff shoots back: “You’re going to remove yourself.”
Jordan, the ranking member of the Oversight Committee, then steps in to defend Gaetz again, declaring that the congressman “is going to stay and listen to the testimony.”
At this point, Gaetz demands that Schiff cite the rule that called for him being booted from the secure facility playing host to the impeachment testimony. Schiff points out that the depositions are closed sessions, spurring Jordan to rally to Gaetz’s defense once again.
“Mr. Chairman, I think in the 20 hours of testimony we’ve heard in the two previous interviews, there have been a grand total of 12 Members of Congress present,” Jordan argues. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt to have a 13th Member actually hear something that, in my judgment, all 435 Members of Congress should be entitled to hear.”
The exchange continues back and forth in similar, repetitive fashion before Schiff apparently loses patience.
“Mr. Gaetz, why don’t you take your spectacle outside?” Schiff asks. “This is not how we conduct ourselves in this committee.”
Gaetz retorts: “I’ve seen how you’ve conducted yourself in this committee, and I’d like to be here to observe.”
Schiff then puts his foot down, declaring that the deposition will be paused until Gaetz abandons his effort, adding: “I do want to say that this dilatory tactic will come out of the minority’s time for questioning” and announcing that he would be starting the clock keeping track of each side’s questioning time.
The transcript cuts off, and restarts at 10:43 a.m., close to two hours after Hill arrived at the Capitol for her deposition. When it picks up again, the general counsel for the Intelligence Committee, Maher Bitar, relays a ruling from the House Parliamentarian indicating that Gaetz was not allowed to be present.
Jordan chirps in to note that “the Parliamentarian was also clear that there is no precedent, no basis for docking anyone’s time, that this was a legitimate question and not dilatory in any Sense.”
Schiff then tells Jordan to resume his opening statement, but not without quickly interrupting once more to make a request of the lawmakers’ stenographer.
“The record should reflect that Mr. Gaetz has left the room,” he says.
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