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Republican lawmakers storm hearing room, disrupt Trump impeachment inquiry.

24/10/2019 10:31, Washington/United States

(TAP) - A U.S. House of Representatives impeachment inquiry devolved into chaos on Wednesday as Republican lawmakers, encouraged by President Donald Trump to get tougher in fighting Democratic efforts to impeach him over dealings with Ukraine, stormed into a high-security hearing room and delayed testimony by a witness.

The more than two dozen Republican lawmakers, who were not authorised to attend the hearing, entered before Laura Cooper, the U.S. defense official who oversees Ukraine and Russia matters, was due to testify behind closed doors before Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

The Republicans yelled complaints that the Democrats in charge of the inquiry were conducting it in private, lawmakers and aides said. Republicans who are members of the three congressional committees conducting the inquiry have taken part in the process throughout.

After a delay of about four hours, Cooper began her testimony.

It was a dramatic confrontation in the House of Representatives inquiry that threatens Republican Trump's presidency even as he seeks re-election next year.

Democrats are investigating whether there are grounds to impeach Trump over his July 25 request in a phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate a domestic political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden is a front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Zelenskiy agreed during the call. U.S. security aid that had been approved by the U.S. Congress but was being withheld from Ukraine was later provided.

Federal election law prohibits candidates from accepting foreign help in an election.

The content of the phone call was revealed by a whistleblower complaint against Trump by a person in a U.S. intelligence agency.

The top Republicans on the three committees sent a letter to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Wednesday calling on him to have the whistleblower testify publicly. They said Schiff had decided that the committees would not hear the whistleblower's testimony. A Schiff spokesman declined to comment.

People familiar with the matter had said negotiations for the whistleblower's testimony were complicated. Trump had suggested the person committed treason, leading Democrats to worry that their testimony could put them at risk of exposure.

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Publication:Agency Tunis Afrique Press
Geographic Code:4EXUR
Date:Oct 24, 2019
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