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House Republicans storm secret impeachment hearing; Schiff reportedly gets up and leaves with the witness

Decrying a lack of transparency in House Democrats' impeachment process against President Donald Trump, House Republicans gathered in the basement of the Capitol Wednesday morning to demand entry into proceedings they've been barred from thus far. And they reportedly got in.

At a press conference outside the SCIF, dozens of Republican representatives announced that they would seek to gain entry to the secure room — in which the Democrats of the three committees behind the current impeachment push were conducting a deposition — by demanding to be let in as a group.

SCIF stands for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. It's a secure room where classified intelligence and other secret information is discussed. Congress' SCIF is where much of House Democrats' investigation has so far taken place and where Republicans not on the investigating committees have not been allowed to enter.

"If behind those doors they intend to overturn the results of an American presidential election, we want to know what's going on," Rep. Matt Gaetz said while pointing to the SCIF entrance.

"And it's only reasonable that we would have questions," Gaetz added, noting that the impeachment probe has thus far "been marked by secret interviews, selective leaks, weird theatrical performances of transcripts that never happened, and lies about contacts with a whistleblower." Gaetz's last two examples were a specific reference to Schiff's conduct in recent weeks, for which he recently dodged a censure effort brought by House Republicans.

"You should be outraged if  you're an American at what's happening here," said House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs, R-Ariz. "You should be allowed to confront your accusers; this is being held behind closed doors for a reason — because they don't want you to see what the witnesses are like."

"This is a Soviet-style impeachment process," Biggs added. "I don't care whether you are the president of the United States or any other citizens of this country: You should be allowed to confront your witnesses."

According to a senior GOP source who witnessed what happened next, the group went into the anteroom of the SCIF and chanted, "Let us in" outside the door guarded by Capitol Police. After that, the source says, the door opened, someone grabbed it, and a group of Republican members forced their way in.

After members attempted to sit in on the closed-door testimony that was occurring, "Chairman Schiff immediately left with the witness," Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., told reporters while flanked by a handful of other House Republicans.

The secrecy of the three committees’ investigation has drawn an immense amount of criticism from GOP lawmakers since last week, when members were first turned away from impeachment proceedings. Schiff has defended the clandestine process by comparing it to a grand jury.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct an error. In the sentence, "Congress' SCIF is where much of House Democrats' investigation has so far taken place and where Republicans not on the investigating committees have not been allowed to enter," the word "not" in "not on the investigating committees" was inadvertently left out. It has been added. CR regrets the error.

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