CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives brought a closed-door deposition to a halt on Wednesday by entering a secure room where the hearing was taking place.
More than two dozen lawmakers, including West Virginia’s Alex Mooney, were part of the demonstration, which delayed the deposition by five hours. The testimony was part of the House’s impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, which Republicans have argued should be held entirely in an open setting.
Members of the House’s Oversight and Reform, Foreign Affairs, and Intelligence committees were scheduled to hear testimony Wednesday morning from Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Laura Cooper; her responsibilities involve policy with Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.
Lawmakers heard the deposition in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, a secure room where classified briefings are held. Lawmakers not part of the committees involved in this portion of the impeachment inquiry could not participate.
Mooney called the impeachment inquiry a “kangaroo court,” adding West Virginians expect him to defend the president from impeachment.
“I’ve been urging for a while for members to go down there and listen to the testimonies accusing the president of things,” he told MetroNews. “It’s all very one-sided because the president is not allowed to have his legal counsel present, he’s not allowed to cross-examine witnesses, (and) he’s not allowed to offer counter-evidence. It’s a completely one-sided hearing.”
Republican committee members have equal time to ask questions in hearings, but Mooney said the process is unfair because most representatives cannot hear evidence and Republicans part of the process cannot call up their own witnesses.
“Most of America has their representative unable to represent them at these hearings,” he said. “This is an investigation, openly stated, to impeach President Trump. That is what they are trying to do.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the impeachment inquiry on Sept. 24 in light of a call between Trump and Ukraine’s leader in which the president referenced investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Mooney told MetroNews earlier this month the president did nothing wrong in requesting such action.
When asked on Wednesday about the impeachment inquiry process, Mooney said everything should take place in an open session.
“There’s nothing going on there that would require a closed meeting,” he said.
A video by the Washington Examiner shows Mooney walking toward the secure meeting room holding his cell phone. The devices are not allowed in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. Mooney later released a video he took with his phone showing him walking toward the meeting room and being told he and other lawmakers cannot bring cameras inside.
Here is the video of me before entering the SCIF hearing room to expose Adam Schiff and the Democrats secret impeachment hearing to demand transparency for West Virginians and the American people. pic.twitter.com/DGEJZHehbz
— Rep. Alex Mooney (@RepAlexMooney) October 23, 2019
“You go down that hallway 30 feet or so. There’s another door that’s locked, and behind that door is the actual SCIF,” Mooney told MetroNews. “In that hallway, there are cubbyholes and cubicles. They asked us to turn our phones off and put the phones in those places. You can’t give your phone up until you are actually in that hallway, so there’s a misunderstanding there. Nobody had their phones on in the SCIF, Republican or Democrat. That’s fine, that’s fair.”
According to Mooney, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., immediately left the room once the group arrived, as did Cooper.
Mooney’s office on Wednesday afternoon released an audio report of the demonstration that the representative recorded.
BREAKING–> My report from inside the SCIF hearing room where we are exposing Adam Schiff’s secret so-called impeachment inquiry. pic.twitter.com/fPcPJ94R9y
— Rep. Alex Mooney (@RepAlexMooney) October 23, 2019
“I’m calling you from the SCIF on a secure phone right now. We had to give up our cell phones as we were coming in because you couldn’t have them there,” Mooney says in the recording. “Of course, they are not having a hearing anyway. It’s just a bunch of Republicans in the room right now waiting for the information so we can represent our constituents.”
Mooney later told MetroNews the phone call was made in a nearby room using a secure phone.
“That’s when I called into the office and had them record me just explaining what is happening,” he said.
Schiff later thanked Cooper for her participation and criticized the protesting lawmakers.
“Today, Laura Cooper 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 tweeted. “We will not be deterred from revealing the truth.”
Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., stood beside Mooney and other Republican colleagues in a press conference criticizing the inquiry before the group entered the meeting room. She said on Twitter lawmakers and the public “deserve the same transparency.”
Miller serves on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and a spokesperson confirmed she was in the room when Republicans entered.
The communications director for Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said he did not participate in the protest. He does not serve on any of the committees responsible for the impeachment inquiry.