After about two dozen House Republicans entered a closed-door impeachment proceeding on Wednesday, House Democrats threatened Republican lawmakers with rarely used ethics violations.
The Republicans wanted access to the meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper. According to the Washington Examiner, they argued that Cooper is under the jurisdiction of the House Armed Services panel.
“Now we are being threatened with ethics violations,” Rep. Michael Waltz, a Florida Republican, told the news outlet. “We, as sitting members of Congress, with jurisdiction over the witness, and over military aid, are being threatened.”
The House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs committees were designated by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to head the inquiry into impeaching President Trump.
As the uninvited Republicans entered the room, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) got up and left and took Cooper with him, according to several of the Republicans.
“We simply very calmly walked into the room, sat down, and were ready to hear the proceedings,” Waltz added. “Adam Schiff got up and left—with the witness.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) said that Schiff “clearly peeved that he will no longer be able to hide his impeachment sham, is threatening Ethics punishment for all of us.”
Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) stated that Schiff said “nothing” when the members sat down. He then left with Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, who was under deposition, according to The Hill.
The House Republicans argued that lawmakers, not just members of the three House committees overseeing the inquiry, should be able to attend the closed-door hearings.
“He doesn’t have the guts to come talk to us,” Marshall said of Schiff. “He left, he just got up and left. He doesn’t have the guts to tell us why we can’t come in the room, why he doesn’t want this to be transparent. It’s the biggest facade, biggest farce of my life.”
Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) added that Schiff left the room, adding that he is now threatening the other lawmakers with “ethics” violations, The Hill reported. And Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said that “we want to hear from this witness but so do the other members of Congress.”
Some Democratic lawmakers claimed they violated the law.
“It’s not a ‘secret chamber,’ it’s the House of Representatives’ SCIF,” Rep. Don Breyer (D-Va. ) wrote on Twitter. “Access is open to members of committees of jurisdiction, not mobs. The phone you sent this on is banned there because it violates security protocols that protect classified information to keep Americans safe.”