It also laid the groundwork for a critical shift in the Democrats’ strategy that has emerged in recent days in the wake of the revelation about Trump’s interactions with Ukraine’s president and Trump’s alleged abuse of power in asking a foreign government to provide dirt on a political rival.
The confluence of two otherwise coincidental events — the embarrassing Lewandowski hearing followed in quick succession by the explosion of the Ukraine story — handed Pelosi an opening to sideline Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N
Schiff, in concert with other chairmen, moved swiftly Friday to issue subpoenas for documents from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and set up depositions next week with State Department officials who would have knowledge of Trump’s engagements with Ukraine. One official, Kurt Volker, suddenly resigned Friday as Trump’s special envoy
The panel also scheduled a closed briefing for Friday with the intelligence community’s inspector general, whose preliminary investigation of a whistleblower’s complaint about Trump’s call found it a matter of “urgent concern.”
“We have to flesh out all of the facts
Pelosi repeatedly has expressed sadness about embarking on the consequential step of impeaching a president, a politically divisive move that could boost Trump’s reelection bid and imperil her majority. Even if the House votes to impeach Trump, ousting the president is a long shot in the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats owe House control to dozens of moderates who won in Republican districts last fall and, like Pelosi, dropped their resistance to an impeachment inquiry in the days after the Ukraine revelation. Of the 235 Democrats in the House, 224 back an impeachment inquiry — 86 rushing to support it over a five-day period, according to a Washington Post analysis.
“We must be somber, we must be prayerful, and we must pursue the facts
Facing a skeptical public, House Democrats are overwhelmingly backing Schiff — none more so than
“I have an issue with people bringing a bucket of chicken into a hearing room,” said centrist Rep. Max Rose (D-N
In a private meeting Thursday night, several moderates told Pelosi that Schiff needed to be the face of their impeachment inquiry and said they didn’t want other, more liberal voices to continue making the case on television.
Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.), who represents an Orlando-area district, had pressed House leaders to appoint a special committee to probe the Ukraine allegations. Soto called the Judiciary hearing with Lewandowski “rudderless.”
After watching Schiff and colleagues question acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire on Thursday, Soto said he was satisfied with the selection of the Intelligence panel.
“This investigation has found the proper home to be conducted seriously,” he said.
Most Democrats, including many Judiciary members, see the Intelligence panel as
“We need to be aware of the gravity of this moment,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N
Nadler has accepted the change in leadership, according to lawmakers and aides. In a show of unity, the two men appeared side by side at a Congressional Progressive Caucus meeting Thursday, promising a swift and thorough investigation. Through a spokesman, Nadler declined to comment.
With a seemingly endless string of TV appearances, Schiff earned his Democratic colleagues’ trust as a public messenger early in the Trump administration, leading the party’s response to allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by the president.
Schiff, 59, was a prosecutor in the U.S.
As former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian election interference unfolded, Republicans leveled withering attacks on Schiff for pushing a collusion narrative that Mueller’s report, they said, ultimately did not support. But inside the secretive confines of the Intelligence Committee, he has won universal praise from Democrats for his tone and professionalism.
“There’s no better guy on the face of the planet to undertake this in an
But perils abound, as Schiff learned Thursday during the Maguire hearing. While many Democrats praised the solemn nature of the proceedings, his decision to dramatize and embellish the transcript of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president drew criticism from potentially persuadable Republicans on his panel, not to mention Trump loyalists.
Schiff defended his words as a “parody,” but Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Trump-friendly House Freedom Caucus, introduced a motion to condemn and censure him Friday, shortly after Trump tweeted that Schiff “totally made up my conversation” and demanded his resignation.
Acting intelligence chief Maguire defends his handling of
So far, the GOP has remained unified behind Trump, but that support has shown some cracks. In the Senate last week, Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said it was inappropriate for Trump to ask Ukraine to investigate a political adversary. And moderate Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) declined to comment on the controversy because she might someday be a juror in a trial to remove Trump from office.
In Texas on Saturday, Rep. Cheri Bustos (
“These are his words, for God’s sake, and you’ve got Republicans who are silent,” Bustos said at the Texas Tribune Festival.
Schiff’s preeminent role means Nadler and the Judiciary Committee have been at least temporarily relegated to the wings, with their investigative work largely put on hold as Nadler awaits direction on how to write articles of impeachment.
For months, Nadler was the face of the left’s push to impeach Trump — much to the chagrin of Pelosi and moderate Democrats who thought he was too aggressive. The Judiciary panel hoped to investigate a list of Trump controversies, from hush payments made to women alleging sexual encounters with Trump to obstructions laid out in Mueller’s report — charges that many moderate Democrats worried wouldn’t resonate with the public.
At the same time, the tensions between Pelosi and Nadler were starting to spill out into the open. The two had never seen eye-to-eye on the pace or the substance of an impeachment inquiry, with Nadler pushing a reluctant Pelosi privately to embrace Trump’s ousting, while the speaker
Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), the Judiciary vice chair, credited Nadler for making the best of a difficult situation “given the unprecedented executive branch noncompliance with the Constitution.”
And, Judiciary members were quick to point out, they will get to add the final flourish of impeachment. Lawmakers and aides said there is a growing desire, for instance, to include an article condemning Trump’s obstruction of Congress to the bill of offenses to be prepared by the panel.
“When it’s time to score the touchdown,” said Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.), a Judiciary panel member, “they’ll give us the ball.”
Karoun Demirjian and Paul Kane in Washington and Dave Weigel in Austin contributed to this report.