WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz led a group of Republican lawmakers Wednesday in storming a secure area of the U.S. Capitol where a Pentagon official was set to testify to the House Intelligence Committee on matters related to the impeachment inquiry aimed at President Donald Trump.
The move into the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility in the basement of the Capitol came after Gaetz, the Republican who represents Northwest Florida, led a news conference featuring criticism of impeachment proceedings from him and other Republican congressmen. The group gathered near the secure hearing room where Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper was set to testify on fallout from a Trump administration decision to withhold aid from Ukraine.
The president is alleged to have used the aid as a bargaining chip for Ukranian assistance in probing alleged corruption involving Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter.
BREAKING: I led over 30 of my colleagues into the SCIF where Adam Schiff is holding secret impeachment depositions. Still inside - more details to come. https://t.co/fHhqkZ6x3Z— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) October 23, 2019
At the news conference, Gaetz — who could be heard prior to the event asking someone, "Hey, buddy, who you with? Do you have a press credential?" — said, "I’m gathered here with dozens of my congressional colleagues, underground, in the basement of the Capitol, because if behind those doors they intend to overturn the results of an American presidential election, we want to know what’s going on.
"And it’s only reasonable that we would have questions," Gaetz continued, "because so far, Adam Schiff’s (Schiff is the Democratic California congressman who chairs the House Intelligence Committee) inquiry has been marked by secret interviews, selective leaks, weird theatrical performances of transcripts that never happened and lies about contacts with a whistle blower.
"We’re going to try to go in there (the SCIF)," Gaetz said, "and we’re going to try to figure out what’s going on on behalf of the millions of Americans that we represent that want (video garbled) Congress working for them, and not obsessed with attacking the president, who we believe has not done anything to deserve impeachment."
Also speaking at the news conference was Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, who asked the gathered media, "What is Adam Schiff trying to hide? I think that’s a question so many people have, so many of my colleagues have, so many in the press should have. ... This shouldn’t be happening in the United States of America, where they’re trying to impeach a president in secret, behind closed doors. The American people deserve better."
Rep. Mark Walker, R-North Carolina, also took a turn at the microphone, claiming, "The American people are being shut out. House Democrats are bypassing constitutional norms and basic standards of due process with their impeachment obsession." Walker went on to suggest Trump "is currently being the target of an angry mob, a willing media machine in a twisted version of an impeachment process that didn’t begin two months ago — that began day one of this administration."