CAPITOL HILL – Fox News learned in more detail how things went down Wednesday in the House Intelligence Committee when 25-30 House Republicans barged into a closed-door deposition of Pentagon official Laura Cooper.
Sources said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., summoned House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving to deal with the deluge of members who were not members of the Intelligence, Oversight or Foreign Affairs Committees.
“It was a violation of House rules and decorum,” said one source.
Fox News is told that the members led by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., actually entered not just the non-secure anteroom and hallways of the Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility (SCIF), but the secure room where Cooper was to be deposed.
That’s where members are not supposed to have electronic devices. Members are asked to agree to an oath that they will not do so. The facility was swept for electronic devices after member gave up their devices.
It appeared one member didn’t surrender their device, prompting a deeper scrub that took around two hours.
The standoff occurred after lawmakers held a news conference accusing Democrats of lacking transparency and specifically calling out Schiff, who is leading the impeachment investigation into President Trump.
From there, the House Republicans stormed in the room where Cooper, who has overseen Ukraine policy at the Pentagon, was set to testify.
There was never any threat of arrest, but a source said some members asked to be arrested, citing the optics of being marched out of the SCIF in handcuffs in front of throngs of reporters and news cameras. That would have surely supported a running GOP narrative that Democrats have run amok with the impeachment process.
Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., speaking at a news conference in front of House Republicans after Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper arrived for the closed-door meeting to testifyin the House impeachment inquiry. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
The Republicans in the room were not rowdy, though their presence in a secure facility, in the middle of House panel business of which they are not members, still ruffled some feathers.
However, there wasn’t much security officials could do, one congressional source told Fox News.
“They’re members. They’re expected to adhere to the rules. There’s no real punishment for breaking the rules,” said the source.
Schiff decided to wait the Republicans out, knowing there was a mid-afternoon vote on the House floor. The Republicans left and the deposition finished around 3:15 p.m.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., sent a letter to Irving, raising “serious concerns” about the security of SCIF’s. He asked Irving to “take action with respect to the Members involved in the breach.”
The members who violated the rules of the SCIF could be referred to the House Ethics Committee, one source told Fox News.
“We made our point,” said one Republican who asked not to be identified.