In late October, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida orchestrated a House Republican stunt of storming the SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) where impeachment inquiry witness Laura Cooper was set to testify in the highly classified setting. Not only was it a childish stunt, it was a major violation of security protocol. The SCIF had to be completely reset by security experts after some of the Republican invaders brought their cell phones into the area, a dangerous violation of national security.
Turns out that wasn’t the only Gaetz caper related to the impeachment inquiry. On October 14, 2019, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff was opening a hearing where Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs on the National Security Council Fiona Hill was about to testify to the impeachment committee (about her recollection of the chain of events around circumstances of Ukraine’s aid being withheld and her firsthand knowledge of discussions around the Trump administration’s corrupt demands of Ukranian President Zelensky. As Chairman Schiff began he opened the proceeding by inviting Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio to make an opening statement. Before Jordan started, Schiff suddenly interrupted, saying, “Excuse me. Could we suspend?”
Schiff noticed Rep. Matt Gaetz was in the room, who is not a member of the three committees (Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight) charged with conducting the depositions and per the House rules, he was not allowed to be in the closed-door session. In a remarkable exchange, Schiff informed Matt Gaetz he was not allowed in the room and like an petulant child, Gaetz insisted he could stay.
Cue the circus music:
MR. JORDAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Hill, I want to thank you also for appearing today. My understanding is you were coming voluntarily until about an hour ago when the chairman issued you a subpoena.
THE CHAIRMAN: Excuse me. Could we suspend?
Do we have any members here who are not members of the three committees authorized to be present?
Mr. Gaetz, you are not permitted to be in the room.
MR. GAETZ: I am on the Judiciary Committee.
THE CHAIRMAN: The Judiciary Committee is not part of this hearing.
MR. GAETZ: I thought the Judiciary Committee had jurisdiction over impeachment.
THE CHAIRMAN:: Mr. Gaetz, you are not permitted to be in the room. Please leave.
MR. GAETZ: Mr. Chairman, really?
THE CHAIRMAN: Yes, really.
MR. GAETZ: You’re going to include members of Congress on committees that have roles on impeachment —
THE CHAIRMAN: Mr. Gaetz, take your statement to the press. They do you no good here. So, please, absent yourself.
MR. GAETZ: You’re going to have someone remove me from the hearing?
THE CHAIRMAN: You’re going to remove yourself, Mr. Gaetz.
MR. JORDAN: Mr. Gaetz is going to stay and listen to the testimony.
THE CHAIRMAN: Mr. Gaetz, you’re going to leave the room.
MR. GAETZ: No, I think I have a right to be here—is there a rule you can cite as to why I am not—
THE CHAIRMAN: You’re not a member of this committee. This is a closed-door session. You’re not permitted to be here.
MR. GAETZ: I’m on the Judiciary Committee.
THE CHAIRMAN: Mr. Gaetz, please absent yourself from the committee. It’s the ruling of the chair you’re not permitted to be here. Please leave the committee.
At this point, Gaetz’s pal Jim Jordan jumped in to try to make the case for Gaetz. Schiff didn’t bite. At all.
MR. JORDAN: Mr. Chairman, I think in the 20 hours of testimony we’ve heard in the two previous interviews, there have been a grand total of 12 members present. I don’t think it is going to hurt to have a 14th member actually hear something that, in my judgement, all 435 members of Congress should be entitled to hear.
THE CHAIRMAN: Mr. Gaetz, you are not a member of the three designated committees that are participating in this interview. You’re not permitted to be here. That is the ruling of the chair and you are required to leave.
MR. GAETZ: Do you have a rule that you’re able to cite for that?
THE CHAIRMAN: I am citing the House rules and the deposition rules. You are not permitted to be here.
MR. GAETZ: Which rule?
THE CHAIRMAN: Mr. Gaetz you are simply delaying the procedures in violation of the rules. Please absent yourself.
MR. GAETZ: Which rule?
THE CHAIRMAN: Why don’t you take your spectacle outside? This is not how we conduct ourselves in this committee.
MR. GAETZ: I’ve seen how you conducted yourself in this committee, and I’d like to be here to observe.
And that, friends, is when Chairman Schiff had had enough. He reached into his chairman’s pouch and pulled out a due punishment for the inappropriate obstruction of the hearing.
THE CHAIRMAN: We’ll wait until Mr. Gaetz leaves before we begin. I do want to say this dilatory tactic will come out of the minority’s time for questioning.
MR. GAETZ: This isn’t dilatory. You can begin anytime you like.
THE CHAIRMAN: We’re going to begin the clock. This will come out of the minority’s time for questioning.
MR. JORDAN: Well, I had a statement I wanted to get to when you interrupted me.
THE CHAIRMAN: We’re not back on the record.
And with that, the transcript ends briefly, picked up again a short time later after Matt Gaetz did, in fact, see his own ass out.