Angry Republicans, Democrats shout each other down in impeachment hearing

GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz yelled at chair Jerry Nadler, a Democrat, accusing him of trying to "overturn the results of an election with unelected people."

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By Dareh Gregorian

They can't even agree on bathroom breaks.

A Judiciary Committee hearing Monday in the impeachment inquiry over allegations that President Donald Trump withheld aid to Ukraine for personal political gain was repeatedly interrupted by angry exchanges between members of the Republican minority on the panel and the Democrats leading the hearing.

After two stop-and-start hours in which Republicans used a parliamentary move known as points of order to slow the proceedings down, even a vote to take a 15-minute break went down strictly partisan lines.

All the Democrats voted to take a break, while all the Republicans unsuccessfully voted not to do so.

"This is so they can have a press conference" before the Republican lawyer, Stephen Castor, offered his testimony, GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz yelled. "Nobody asked for this break!"

Some Democrats did hold a press conference in the 15-minute break, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California, did an interview on MSNBC. Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the panel, held a press conference during the break as well.

See the impeachment hearing live blog for full coverage.

The hearing resumed at noon. About two and a half hours later, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, a Republican, asked Chairman Jerry Nadler if he could call a half-hour recess. Nadler refused, leading to another party-line vote — and no break.

Democrats called a recess about 10 minutes later.

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Back-and-forth bickering broke out shortly after the hearing started in the morning, as Republicans repeatedly demanded that Nadler, a Democrat from New York, schedule a hearing for them to call witnesses they wanted to hear from. Nadler had said he'd consider the request, while Reps. Andy Biggs of Louisiana, Collins and Gaetz insisted he had an obligation to do so immediately.

As Nadler tried to move on to testimony from the lawyer representing the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, Gaetz interrupted again.

"Is this when we just hear staff ask questions of other staff and members get dealt out of this whole hearing and for the next four hours, you're going to try to overturn the results of an election with unelected people giving testimony?" Gaetz, a close ally of the president, shouted as Nadler hammered his gavel.

"The gentleman will not yell out. You will not attempt to disrupt the proceedings," Nadler chided.

During another exchange, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California made a motion to set aside the Republican motion.

Collins said that objection had to be in writing — so Lofgren wrote on a notepad at her desk, ripped it off and showed it to Collins. The motion then proceeded to a vote, which was passed by Democrats.

The sniping continued into the afternoon, including a sharp exchange between Collins and Daniel Goldman, the lawyer for the House Intelligence Committee. Collins was pushing Goldman to reveal how Democrats obtained call logs from Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his indicted associate Lev Parnas that showed conversations with Republican Rep. Devin Nunes and conservative journalist John Solomon.

"Who ordered the match game?" Collins said.

Goldman refused to answer.

"I'm done with you for right now. We're done," Collins said. "You're not answering the question. You're not being honest about this answer."

Republicans had complained earlier that Democratic lawyer Barry Berke was asking questions after testifying at a different part of the hearing in the morning, and then complained that he was "badgering" Republican lawyer Castor.

"I make a point of order that he’s badgering the witness," Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin snapped.

"Sharp cross-examination is not badgering," Nadler said, before pounding his gavel again amid more objections.

Collins then told him that hitting his gavel harder didn't make what he was doing "right."

About nine hours into the hearing, Castor asked between questions from members of both parties if "I could just say something for five seconds?"

"No," Nadler said.

In his opening statement, Collins complained about how Democrats have run the inquiry, saying the committee has become a "rubber stamp" and warned that "this institution is in danger" because it has not been a fair process for the president.

"It's all political," Collins said. "It's a show."

Leigh Ann Caldwell, Dartunorro Clark and Allan Smith contributed.