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Republicans storm impeachment hearing as tensions rise over Trump investigation

Republicans have opposed the Democrat-led investigation into Donald Trump.

Republicans during a press conference yesterday.
Republicans during a press conference yesterday.
Image: J. Scott Applewhite/AP/Press Association Images

REPUBLICAN REPRESENTATIVES STORMED a closed-door impeachment hearing and refused to leave for several hours in an escalation of the showdown over the investigation of US President Donald Trump.

More than two dozen politicians barged into a secure US Capitol meeting, delaying the  testimony of a Pentagon official who was the latest witness in the investigation of possible abuse of power by Trump over his pressure campaign against Ukraine.

The White House has been confronted with a series of depositions by current or former administration officials in recent weeks as Democrats lay out the most serious case against the president in his nearly three years in office.

Yesterday top US envoy to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, testified to lawmakers, offering new details that showed that a quid pro quo of military aid for political assistance was offered.

Trump this week demanded Republicans ”get tougher and fight” back.

On Wednesday, he issued a warning to any Republicans who might turn on him, describing so-called Never Trumpers within his own party as “human scum.”

It is a violation of US House rules to enter such meetings, which are held in rooms designed to prevent electronic eavesdropping, without permission. 

The House Homeland Security Committee chairman, Bennie Thompson, wrote to the sergeant at arms complaining that lawmakers had breached security in the room. 

“As such I am requesting you take action with respect to the members involved in the breach,” Thompson wrote.

The sit-in delayed the deposition of Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defence responsible for Ukraine policy, for several hours. 

Cooper began testifying later in the afternoon, a staffer told AFP, and that evening Schiff tweeted she “did her lawful duty and answered questions from both parties”.

“She did so notwithstanding efforts by the President to stop her, and when those failed, efforts by his GOP allies in Congress to do the same,” he wrote.

Steve Scalise, one of the House Republican who joined the protest, said lawmakers were being denied access as Democrats were “trying to impeach the president of the United States with a one-sided set of rules”.

All members of the three House committees conducting the investigation, including more than 40 House Republicans - among them vice president Mike Pence’s brother, congressman Greg Pence – are permitted to attend the depositions and question witnesses.

Several of those with full access to the hearing joined other Republicans in the protest, arguing that the impeachment process deserves more transparency.

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Senate Republican John Thune acknowledged that the picture painted by Bill Taylor according to reports was “not a good one.”

Taylor said that Trump was holding back military aid for Ukraine unless the country agreed to investigate Democrats and a company linked to Joe Biden’s family. 

© – AFP 2019

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