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 TrumpTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report George Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: 'Hard to see how either could help' 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.

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The House Intelligence Committee, led by Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocrats worry a speedy impeachment trial will shut out public Schiff huddles in Capitol with impeachment managers Trump defenders argue president can't be removed for abuse of power 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 PelosiDemocrats worry a speedy impeachment trial will shut out public Schiff huddles in Capitol with impeachment managers Media's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle 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) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay 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 BassOmar calls on US to investigate Turkey over possible war crimes in Syria McConnell takes heat from all sides on impeachment Sunday Talk Shows: Lawmakers look ahead to House vote on articles of impeachment, Senate trial 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 EngelHouse Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request House panel reinvites Pompeo to deliver Iran testimony 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 JeffriesSchiff huddles in Capitol with impeachment managers Sunday shows - All eyes on Senate impeachment trial Jeffries: Calling new witnesses for Senate trial part of following the 'Clinton model' 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 LeeSteyer calls for cuts to defense spending House to vote on Iran war powers bills sought by progressives Khanna: Timing of Iran bill being weighed against getting bigger majority MORE (Calif.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarMedia's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Jayapal endorses Sanders Sanders, Warren battle for progressive endorsements MORE (Minn.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyCongressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Jayapal endorses Sanders Sanders, Warren battle for progressive endorsements Ayanna Pressley's 'squad' of congresswomen offers support after she opens up about alopecia MORE (Mass.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibCongressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Jayapal endorses Sanders Sanders, Warren battle for progressive endorsements Hillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' MORE (Mich.) and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezNYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for president Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Jayapal endorses Sanders Sanders, Warren battle for progressive endorsements 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 CicillineHillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Smaller companies testify against Big Tech's 'monopoly power' Living in limbo may end for Liberians in the US 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.