Impeachment transcript details intrusion by GOP Rep. Gaetz

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Friday released a transcript of the closed-door deposition by former National Security Council policy specialist Fiona Hill in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, which begins with a lengthy protest by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., one of the president’s staunchest defenders.

At the start of Hill’s appearance on Oct. 14, Gaetz apparently barged into the room, demanding to be allowed to watch the proceedings despite not being a member of any of the committees convening the hearing. Schiff then suspended his opening remarks to Hill.

Rep. Matt Gaetz. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)

“Do we have any members here that are not members of the three committees authorized to be present?” Schiff asked. “Mr. Gaetz, you’re not permitted to be in the room.”

Gaetz responded, “I am on the Judiciary Committee.”

“Judiciary Committee is not a part of this hearing,” Schiff countered.

Gaetz: “I thought the Judiciary Committee had jurisdiction over impeachment.”

According to the protocol established by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Judiciary Committee will draft and pass a resolution of impeachment, if any, but this stage of the investigation is in the hands of the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees, and only members of those committees, including Republicans, may attend hearings. Schiff is in charge.

Schiff: “Mr. Gaetz, you’re not permitted to be in the room. Please leave.”

Rep. Jim Jordan attempted to intervene on Gaetz’s behalf, but Schiff stood firm.

Gaetz: “You’re going to include members of Congress on committees that have no roles of impeachment —”

Schiff: “Mr. Gaetz, take your statement to the press. They do you no good here. So, please, absent yourself.”

Gaetz: “You’re going to have someone remove me from the hearing?”

Schiff: “You’re going to remove yourself, Mr. Gaetz.”

Gaetz eventually left, apparently under his own power, although the transcript doesn’t specify. He said the episode demonstrated that Schiff and his party were engaging in a “coup” against Trump.

House Republicans had centered their defense of the president on the claim that the testimony delivered behind closed doors should be conducted in public. On Oct. 23, Gaetz helped lead around two dozen Republican colleagues as they disrupted Pentagon official Laura Cooper’s appearance. Reporters pointed out that the Republicans had broken House rules and security protocol by bringing cellphones into a secure area.

Those process complaints regarding closed-door testimony have largely been rendered moot since Democrats announced last week that they plan to begin open hearings with witnesses beginning next Wednesday.

“They shouldn’t be having public hearings,” Trump told reporters gathered outside the White House. Notwithstanding his litany of complaints about the unfairness of the process up till now, the president said, “We’re kicking their ass.”

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