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Angry Republicans, Democrats tangle in impeachment hearing

They can’t even agree on bathroom breaks.

A Judiciary Committee hearing Monday in the impeachment inquiry 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.

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Back-and-forth bickering broke out shortly after the hearing started, as Republicans repeatedly demanded the Democratic chairman, Jerry Nadler of New York, schedule a hearing for them to call witnesses they want to hear from. Nadler had said he’d consider the request, while Reps. Andy Biggs of Louisiana, Collins and Gaetz demanded 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, where Republicans complained 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 Steven 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.”

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.