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 TrumpPelosi arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Trump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash CNN's Anderson Cooper mocks WH press secretary over Fox News interview 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

The House Intelligence Committee, led by Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffWhite House staggers after tumultuous 48 hours Trump embarks on Twitter spree amid impeachment inquiry, Syria outrage House Republicans 'demand the release of the rules' on impeachment 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 arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Trump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash Scrap House defense authorization provision benefitting Russia 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 MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network 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 BassKhashoggi fiancée meets with lawmakers seeking 'justice and accountability' for his slaying Democrats zero in on Ukraine call as impeachment support grows CBC marks 400th anniversary of slaves' arrival in US 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 Republicans 'demand the release of the rules' on impeachment Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump insists Turkey wants cease-fire | Fighting continues in Syrian town | Pentagon chief headed to Mideast | Mattis responds to criticism from Trump Testimony from GOP diplomat complicates Trump defense 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 JeffriesLawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings House chairman: Pompeo not complying with impeachment inquiry Sunday shows - Second whistleblower grabs spotlight 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 LeeDeLauro enters race to succeed Lowey as Appropriations chief The 13 House Democrats who back Kavanaugh's impeachment Lawmakers mourn death of 'Julia' star Diahann Carroll MORE (Calif.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOcasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment Ocasio-Cortez tweets endorsement of Sanders Ocasio-Cortez throws support to Sanders at Queens rally MORE (Minn.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyOcasio-Cortez mourns Cummings: 'A devastating loss for our country' Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings Omar endorses Sanders presidential bid MORE (Mass.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibOcasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment Ocasio-Cortez tweets endorsement of Sanders Ocasio-Cortez throws support to Sanders at Queens rally MORE (Mich.) and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment Ocasio-Cortez tweets endorsement of Sanders Ocasio-Cortez throws support to Sanders at Queens rally 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: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship FTC Democrat raises concerns that government is 'captured' by large tech companies Democrats want Mulvaney to testify in Trump impeachment probe 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.