Republican lawmakers who stormed a secured area on Capitol Hill in an attempt to obstruct ongoing impeachment testimony by a Pentagon official on Thursday reportedly compromised the room by intentionally bringing mobile phones inside.
According to multiple reports, Rep. K. Michael Conaway, a Republican of Texas and senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, was forced to confiscate the GOP lawmakers’ phones after recognising the breach of security protocols.
The conservatives walked into hearing room with their electronics, Connolly said, which is prohibited in the room. Mike Conaway of Texas collected the electronics.
Laura Cooper testimony has been delayed because of the disruption; Schiff is consulting with the sergeant of arms.
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) October 23, 2019
Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defence for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, was set to testify on Thursday in one of the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIF) in the Capitol complex used by members of U.S. Congress to discuss classified information.
Cooper was expected to face questions about U.S. President Trump’s decision to withhold $570 million in security assistance to Ukraine. William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testified on Tuesday that Trump withheld the funds while pressing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up dirt on his political rival, 2020 presidential contender and former Vice President Joe Biden.
The Republican lawmakers reportedly barged into the SCIF to demand Democrats hold open impeachment hearings. Republican members of the committees hearing Cooper’s testimony were already present in the room.
Wow — an official working on the impeachment inquiry says some Republicans “refused to completely remove” their phones from the facility “after being advised by the Sergeant at Arms and security personnel that there were members still in possession of electronic devices.”
— Andrew Desiderio (@AndrewDesiderio) October 23, 2019
The Washington Post reported that Republican members committed a serious security breach by entering the SCIF with their mobile phones, which some reportedly used while inside to send tweets. In audio uploaded to his Twitter account, Rep. Alex Mooney claimed to have placed a phone call inside the room.
.@RepAlexMooney, seen below apparently videotaping as he barges into a SCIF, last year co-sponsored H.Res.907, calling for the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate why Sec. Clinton escaped criminal charges in connection with her handling of classified information. pic.twitter.com/R2RdVgxL93
— Ned Price (@nedprice) October 23, 2019
The House sergeant-at-arms was eventually called to disperse the group and the hearing continued, but not before the SCIF had to be swept for rogue signals, according to several Capitol Hill reporters.
Neal Katyal, the former acting U.S. solicitor general, tweeted that the “stupidest” thing the GOP lawmakers could have done is bring electronic devices into the SCIF citing the risk of compromise by foreign spies. “You would your security clearance [and] may even face criminal prosecution,” he said of officials who violate the rules.
By noon local time, Bloomberg had reported that President Trump had advanced knowledge of the lawmakers’ plans to storm the secured area and had voiced support for interrupting Cooper’s testimony. CNN later confirmed the story citing a person familiar with the matter.
This is a developing story.