Democrats zero in on Ukraine call as impeachment support grows

House Democrats are homing in their impeachment inquiry to focus squarely on President TrumpDonald John TrumpHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Police called after Florida moms refuse to wear face masks at school board meeting about mask policy Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline MORE's dealings with Ukraine.

While the six-committee impeachment probe will examine various allegations of presidential misconduct — from obstruction of justice and emoluments violations to hush money payments and other financial improprieties — Democrats will concentrate the bulk of their resources on new revelations that Trump pressed a foreign leader to investigate a domestic political rival.


The House Intelligence Committee, led by Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffCIA impeachment whistleblower forced to live under surveillance due to threats: report In our 'Bizarro World' of 2020 politics, the left takes a wrong turn Greenwald slams Schiff over Biden emails on Fox MORE (D-Calif.), will take the lead on pursuing the impeachment investigation.

"It is an intelligence matter and it is focused in the Intelligence Committee," Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Trump should accept election results 'like a man' The spectre of pension failures haunts this election Microsoft: Iranian hacking group targeting attendees of major international security conferences MORE (D-Calif.) said Thursday.

"The consensus in our caucus is that the focus now is on this allegation now that we're seeing the evidence of it," she added. "This is the focus of the moment because this is the charge. All of the other work that relates to abuse of power, ignoring subpoenas of Congress, contempt of Congress by him, those things will be considered later."

Up until now, the House Judiciary Committee has played the most prominent role in the Democrats' oversight of Trump, largely because it has jurisdiction over issues related to former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE's report on Russia's meddling in the 2016 election.

Members of the Judiciary panel huddled Wednesday night to discuss their strategy and reached the conclusion that Ukraine should be the key issue for building an impeachment case.

"Last night we had a [Judiciary] meeting and everybody agrees it should focus on Ukraine," Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassPorter raises .2 million in third quarter Overnight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds Democrats push to limit transfer of military-grade gear to police MORE (D-Calif.), a senior member of the committee, said Thursday morning.

Bass said Judiciary's investigations into obstruction and other facets of the Mueller report will continue, but noted that much of that effort is tied up in the courts. With that in mind, the Intelligence Committee will meet over the upcoming two-week recess, which begins Friday, while Judiciary has no plans to return to Washington during that period, Bass said.

"We won't be called in, because all of our stuff is sitting in court anyway," she said.

Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelTrump appointee sparks bipartisan furor for politicizing media agency Office of Special Counsel widens Pompeo probe into Hatch Act violations  Overnight Defense: Trump, Biden set to meet in final debate | Explicit Fort Bragg tweets were sent by account administrator | China threatens retaliation over Taiwan arms sale MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, which also has jurisdiction over the Ukraine saga, said his panel has no plans to hold hearings over the recess.

Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesA tearful lesson of 2016: Polls don't matter if people don't vote Overnight Health Care: House Democrats slam pharma CEOs for price hikes driven by revenue, executive bonuses | Ex-FDA employees express worries to Congress over politicization of vaccines | Fauci said his mask stance was 'taken out of context' by Trump Top House Democrat: Parties 'much closer' to a COVID deal 'than we've ever been' MORE (N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, emphasized that the party is "still operating underneath an impeachment umbrella that involves six different committees."

"But the clear focus will be the work that the Intel Committee needs to do to get to the bottom of what has happened as it relates to Donald Trump's latest episode of criminality," he said Thursday.

For Democratic leaders, the decision to focus squarely on Ukraine is both practical and political.

Practically, Democrats already have much of the information surrounding the episode, following the release of both a readout of Trump's call with the Ukrainian president and the whistleblower report detailing that call. Politically, Democrats think they'll have an easier time explaining to voters why they've responded with a process as dire as impeachment.

"It makes sense for us to focus on that so that it's a clear-cut understood example," said Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.). "That way there's less confusion."

In the progressive wing of the caucus, some liberals have already seen enough and are pressing Democratic leaders to bring impeachment articles to the floor immediately. That was the message sent by those participating in a rally Thursday outside the Capitol, where activists were joined by a handful of progressive lawmakers to make the case for urgency.

Among the lawmakers in attendance were Democratic Reps. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeDemocrats accuse Kushner of 'casual racism' over comments about Black Americans Ocasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts Democrats accuse tech companies of deceitful tactics in campaign against Calif. ballot measure MORE (Calif.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOcasio-Cortez: Republicans don't believe Democrats 'have the stones to play hardball' Progressive lawmakers call for United Nations probe into DHS 'human rights abuses' Ocasio-Cortez hits Trump for 'disrespect' over calling her AOC during debates MORE (Minn.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyProgressive lawmakers call for United Nations probe into DHS 'human rights abuses' Ocasio-Cortez hits Trump for 'disrespect' over calling her AOC during debates Democrats unveil bill to reduce police violence against people with mental illness MORE (Mass.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibProgressive lawmakers call for United Nations probe into DHS 'human rights abuses' Ocasio-Cortez hits Trump for 'disrespect' over calling her AOC during debates Ocasio-Cortez draws hundreds of thousands of viewers on Twitch livestream MORE (Mich.) and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump strips protections for Tongass forest, opening it to logging | Interior 'propaganda' video and tweets may violate ethics laws, experts say | Democrats see Green New Deal yielding gains despite GOP attacks Ocasio-Cortez says she doesn't plan on 'staying in the House forever' Ocasio-Cortez: 'Trump is the racist visionary, but McConnell gets the job done' MORE (N.Y.).

As the process unfolds, the Judiciary Committee will retain its jurisdiction over the drafting of articles of impeachment — if Democrats decide to go that far.

"The expectation is that all the six committees of jurisdiction will engage in an impeachment inquiry," said Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineJustice Department charges Google with illegally maintaining search monopoly Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Jewish lawmakers targeted by anti-Semitic tweets ahead of election: ADL MORE (R.I.), head of the Democrats’ messaging arm. "To the extent that they uncover a basis for articles of impeachment, they will refer that to the committee of jurisdiction, the Judiciary Committee, for the drafting of those articles."

But for now, at least, Schiff and the Intelligence Committee will command center stage as the Ukraine saga unfolds. And as more and more lawmakers read the whistleblower report Thursday morning, there was a growing sense that the details it held were inching Democrats ever-closer to impeachment votes.

"Why the president thinks that this is exculpatory — maybe he doesn't know that word — that the president thinks that this proves his innocence, only goes to show how further he doesn't understand right from wrong," Pelosi said.