Rep. Chabot puts impeachment at center of his case for Judiciary post

Rep. Chabot puts impeachment at center of his case for Judiciary post
© Greg Nash

Rep. Steve ChabotSteven (Steve) Joseph ChabotThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race House Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for House Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 MORE (Ohio) is making the case that he’s the best Republican to have at the top of the House Judiciary Committee in the next Congress because of his experience in President Clinton’s impeachment.

Chabot was one of 13 House managers during the Clinton impeaching proceedings, experience he thinks will be useful to Republicans next year if they are battling Democrats seeking to impeach President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Smollett lawyers declare 'Empire' star innocent Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration MORE.

In an interview with The Hill, Chabot said he’s optimistic the GOP will retain its majority, but thinks his skills make him a good choice to lead Republicans on Judiciary regardless of which party controls the House.

“I think my background on this could be helpful, if it comes to that,” he said of Republicans losing the House.

“If we're still in the majority, which I believe and certainly hope we still are, it will still be helpful to the extent that the Democrats are going to continue pushed by their base on that issue.”

Chabot is the most senior member on the Judiciary Committee seeking the gavel, but faces competition from Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsDems seize on Times bombshell to push allegations of Trump obstruction The Hill's Morning Report - Can Bernie recapture 2016 magic? House panel advances bill to expand background checks for gun sales MORE (R-Ga.), a member of GOP leadership who currently serves as the vice chairman of the Republican Conference.

The Steering Committee is expected to make its decision on the matter after the midterm elections.

While House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiWhy Omar’s views are dangerous Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration Overnight Defense: Graham clashed with Pentagon chief over Syria | Talk grows that Trump will fire Coats | Coast Guard officer accused of domestic terrorism plot MORE (D-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerWhy Omar’s views are dangerous On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Dems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters MORE (D-Md.) have discouraged Democrats from pushing for Trump’s impeachment ahead of the midterms, Chabot said he thinks they’ll be under enormous pressure to move forward if they retake the House.

“I think their base is demanding [impeachment],” he told The Hill. “And whether they fall in line or not, we'll see, but it's certainly a distinct possibility.”

As one of the House managers, Chabot, who practiced law for 18 years in the private sector, was tasked with essentially serving as a prosecutor making the case for Clinton's impeachment to the Senate. The Ohio Republican is one of just three Clinton impeachment managers still in Congress, along with Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamFBI’s top lawyer believed Hillary Clinton should face charges, but was talked out of it Overnight Defense: Graham clashed with Pentagon chief over Syria | Talk grows that Trump will fire Coats | Coast Guard officer accused of domestic terrorism plot Graham cursed at acting DOD chief, declaring himself his 'adversary' MORE (R-S.C.) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).

"If we're still in the majority, which I believe and certainly hope we still are, it will still be helpful to the extent that the Democrats are going to continue pushed by their base on that issue," he said. "I think when we went through the impeachment, I tend not to be a bomb thrower; I tend to be a bit more even-tempered."

Chabot said he has a positive working relationship with Rep. Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTrump should beware the 'clawback' Congress House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration Omar apologizes after Dem leaders blast tweets as 'anti-Semitic' MORE (N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on Judiciary.

“Now, we're about as different on policy issues as you can get. He's as liberal as I am conservative, but we work together,” he said. “So I think that's helpful, I think it's also helpful having the benefit of having served under five chairmen of the Judiciary Committee.”

Chabot, who is now the chairman of the House Committee on Small Business and has served for 22 years on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees, cited his work on a Burma sanctions bill as an example of his ability to bring committees together to accomplish legislative goals. 

The Ohio Republican also floated the idea of seeking the Foreign Affairs gavel, given Chairman Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceLawmakers propose banning shark fin trade Bottom Line Exiting lawmakers jockey for K Street perch MORE’s (R-Calif.) retirement at the end of this Congress.

Chabot is critical of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigative team, arguing some people on his investigative team are too partisan. But he said he’s able to “look at the facts with an open mind.”

“I've seen how that [impeachment] really divides a country, and unless absolutely necessary it's to be avoided in my opinion,” he said. “And at this point, I haven't seen any evidence that there was collusion between this administration and the Russians to take the last election. I'm reserving my judgment until the end and until all the evidence is in.”