On Wednesday, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) led about 40 fellow House Republicans into a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) being used to depose witnesses in the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump. Some of the Republicans brought cellphones into the secure room, a big no-no.
Their five-hour sit-in, which included a pizza party, delayed but did not derail the testimony of Pentagon official Laura Cooper, who spent about three hours with impeachment investigators after the Occupy SCIF crew left.
The performance was meant to highlight the GOP's attacks on the process House Democrats are using to gather preliminary information, a process that has already produced some damaging revelations about Trump's Ukraine dealings. Here are four odd details from Wednesday's bizarre circus:
1. A third of the occupiers had the right to be in the room alreadyDespite Republican complaints that this is a secret partisan inquiry, 48 Republicans and 59 Democrats are on the three committees allowed to attend and participate in the impeachment depositions — including 13 of the Republicans who "stormed" the SCIF, by journalist Marcy Wheeler's count.
2. The Republicans reportedly wanted to be arrestedDemocrats considered having Capitol Police arrest the unauthorized Republicans, but they decided against it, The Washington Post reports. Nevertheless, some of the Republicans "asked to be arrested," Fox News' Chad Pegram reports, thinking "the optic of being frog-marched out of the SCIF in front of TV cameras" would help advance the "GOP narrative."
3. Gaetz really wanted the footage"In a 'look-at-me' move that's almost too on the nose, Gaetz also broke House rules Wednesday when his staff handed out expired congressional passes to some uncredentialed reporters and the crew of HBO's The Swamp," HuffPost reports. "The show is following Gaetz's efforts to combat the impeachment process."
4. Trump apparently knew and approvedTrump hosted about 30 House Republicans on Tuesday and told them to be more "tough" in defending him against impeachment, Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) said. The "lawmakers shared their plans to storm into the secure room," Bloomberg News reports, and "Trump supported the action." Cooper was the first Pentagon official to defy a directive not to testify, joining State Department and former National Security officials.