Donald Trump impeachment: Republicans storm secure hearing room

24 October 2019, 03:50 | Updated: 24 October 2019, 10:32

The Democrat-led impeachment investigation into Donald Trump was delayed for around four hours after a group of Republicans stormed the closed-door evidence session with a Defense Department official.

Lawmakers said the move compromised national security because some of the Republicans brought electronic devices into a secure room.

The interview with Laura Cooper, a senior official who oversees Ukraine policy, restarted after checks by Capitol security officers.

Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz said she had just walked into the room when the Republican lawmakers blew past Capitol police officers.

"Literally some of them were just screaming about the president and what we're doing to him and that we have nothing and just all things that were supportive of the president," she said.

A series of diplomats have been interviewed in the impeachment probe in what is called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF).

It is a secure room where members can hear classified information with a strict ban on electronic devices.

Democrat Bennie Thompson, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, alleged that Republicans "intentionally brought their electronic devices" into the secure area.

The "unprecedented breach of security raises serious concerns" for committee chairs who maintain secure facilities in the Capitol, Thompson wrote in a letter to the House sergeant at arms asking for action to be taken against members of Congress involved in the breach.

Senator Lindsey Graham, criticised his Republican colleagues for the tactic, calling them "nuts" to make a "run on the SCIF".

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However, the Republicans who took part in the protest were unbowed as Steve Scalise accused the Democrats of running a "Soviet-style process" that should "not be allowed in the United States of America".

"We're not going to be bullied," he said.

Once the deposition restarted, Ms Cooper explained the process of distributing military aid and was asked whether the appropriate steps were followed on Ukraine, according to a person familiar with the interview.

It comes just a day after a top US diplomat told lawmakers he was told President Trump was withholding military aid from Ukraine unless the country's president pledged to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

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