President Trump knew in advance and approved of the plan for a contingent of Republican House members to disrupt the House impeachment inquiry Wednesday, according to Bloomberg News.
About two dozen lawmakers stormed the secure hearing room Wednesday morning, disrupting the closed-door testimony of a Pentagon official.
“If behind those doors they intend to overturn the result of an American presidential election, we want to know what’s going on,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., the ringleader of the protest, told reporters.
Chanting “Let us in! Let us in!” the members of the conservative Freedom Caucus then entered a restricted area in the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities, where the interviews with witnesses have been conducted.Some appeared to carry cell phones into the room in violation of security protocols.
The chaotic scene unfolded one day after William Taylor, the senior U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, delivered damning testimony detailing how the president had linked the release of U.S. military aid to Ukraine to public assurances that President Volodymyr Zelensky would launch an investigation into Trump’s political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
RELATED: Joe Biden through the years
Joe Biden through the years
Joe Biden through the years
Washington, DC. 6-9-1987 Senator Joe Biden (D.,DE.) announces his candidacy for president. Credit: Mark Reinstein (Photo by Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
Sens. Joe Biden, D-Del., and Strom Thurmond, R-S.C. September 9, 1990 (Photo by Maureen Keating/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)
Democratic politician Joseph R. Biden Jr, the United States Senator from Delaware, circa 1980. He became the US Vice President in 2009 under President Barack Obama. (Photo by Nancy Shia/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
American politician and US Senator (and future US Vice President) Joe Biden smiles in a 'Bicentennial Minutes' segment, a series of nightly shorts commemorating the bicentennial of the American Revolution which aired from 1974-1976, August 12, 1974. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : US Senator Joe Biden(D-DE) briefs reporters prior to the 15 January start of the second day of the US Senate impeachment trial of US President Bill Clinton on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. House prosecutors will summarize their case against the president 15 January. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Luke FRAZZA (Photo credit should read LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images)
392389 02: U.S. President George W. Bush meets with members of the Senate and House foreign policy leadership in the Cabinet room at the White House July 25, 2001 in Washington, DC. Seated next to the president is Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE). (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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UNITED STATES - MAY 12: Democrat vice chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), throws up his hands as he speaks during debate on the nomination of John Bolton as US Ambassador the the United Nations May 12, 2005 in Washington D.C. (Photo by Joe Marquette/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - JULY 12: U.S. Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) speaks during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on 'North American Cooperation on the Border' on the Border' on Capitol Hill July 12, 2005 in Washington, DC. The committee discussed border security and how to work together to secure the borders with Mexico and Canada. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 3331 -- Pictured: (l-r) Senator Joe Biden during an interview with host Jay Leno on March 22, 2007 (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
ORANGEBURG, SC - APRIL 26: (L-R) U.S. Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson greet the crowd before the start of the first debate of the 2008 presidential campaign April 26, 2007 at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. The debate, featuring eight Democratic presidential candidates, comes 263 days before the first ballot will be cast in the Iowa caucus next January. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Civil Society Forum on the sideline of the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC, on August 4, 2014. Washington aims to wake up US business to the opportunities in Africa with the landmark US-Africa Leaders Summit this week, as China and Europe steal a march on the world's fastest-growing continent. As many as four dozen African leaders, and hundreds of businessmen with them, will for their part be looking to see if US investors and traders can move beyond old stereotypes of a continent mired in conflict and corruption and recognize its huge potential. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 18: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (R) swears in Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro (L) as his wife Erica and daughter Carina look on during a ceremonial swearing in ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building August 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. Castro, the former Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, was officially sworn in on July 28. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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US President Barack Obama speaks to US Vice President Joe Biden after Biden introduced him during a signing ceremony for H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, on July 22, 2014 in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US Presidential Barack Obama speaks on immigration reform beside US Vice President Joe Biden (R) in the Rose Garden of the White House on June 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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US Vice President Joe Biden adresses a speech to students and officials at Cotroceni Palace, the Romanian Presidency headquarters in Bucharest on May 21, 2014. Tougher sanctions must be imposed on Russia if it undermines crucial presidential elections in Ukraine on May 25, 2014, US Vice President Joe Biden said in Bucharest. AFP PHOTO DANIEL MIHAILESCU (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)
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US Vice President Joe Biden (L) and outgoing Heath and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius applaud as President Barack Obama names Sylvia Mathews Burwell (R), his current budget director, to replace Sebelius in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington,DC on April 11, 2014. Sebelius resigned, paying the price for the chaotic initial rollout of the US president's signature health care law. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe Biden waves upon arrival for a meeting with Lithuania's President in Vilnius on March 19, 2014. Biden meets today with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Latvian leader as part of a tour to reassure NATO allies during the Ukraine crisis. AFP PHOTO / PETRAS MALUKAS (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe Biden listens during a meeting with the Polish Prime Minister in Warsaw, Poland on March 18, 2013. Biden arrived in Poland for talks with regional allies as Russia tightened its grip on the Ukraine's breakaway region of Crimea. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo credit should read JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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The disruption Wednesday halted testimony from Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. The Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., ordered Capitol Police to remove the intruders, after which a security sweep of the facility was required.
While a key administration talking point has been that the Democrats are conducting their impeachment inquiry in secret, Republicans sit on all three of the committees involved in the investigation and have attended each of the sessions.
When Republicans controlled the House, they conducted closed-door interviews with witnesses in their three-year investigation into the terror attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
"I can get more information in a five-hour deposition than I can in five minutes of listening to a colleague ask questions in committee hearings,” former Rep. Trey Gowdy, who led the Benghazi hearings, explained.
Schiff has said that Democrats plan to release the transcripts of the interviews they have conducted at the conclusion of this stage of the inquiry. While the specifics of the testimony are not known, the opening statements by some witnesses that have been released to the press and accounts by Democrats on the committee have begun to corroborate the view that Trump pursued a quid pro quo arrangement with Ukraine’s government.
"You had a number of Republican members, who were not on the committees of jurisdiction, try to go into the SCIF area. They also brought their cell phones, which is a violation. They violated House rules by trying to crash committees which they don't sit on," Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., told reporters. "All of this is an attack right on the investigation.”
The invasion by the squad, consisting overwhelmingly of white men in dark suits, recalled the infamous “Brooks Brothers Riot” of November, 2000, in which Republican functionaries stormed an office in Miami to stop a manual recount of presidential ballots, helping to ensure the election of George W. Bush.
Trump has labeled the inquiry to a “coup” attempt, a “witch hunt” and a “lynching.” and many of the Republicans participated in Wednesday’s disruption have echoed him, blasting Democrats for conducting their questioning away from television cameras.
Such complaints are not uncommon in Washington. In 2017, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a now infamous rejoinder to Democrats who protested that Republicans had passed a sweeping tax reform bill in the middle of the night that included provisions they were not allowed to read.
“You complain about process when you’re losing,” McConnell said.