Democrats zero in on Ukraine call as impeachment support grows

House Democrats are homing in their impeachment inquiry to focus squarely on President TrumpDonald TrumpCuban embassy in Paris attacked by gasoline bombs Trump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios Trump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race 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 SchiffFive things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work Schiff: Jan. 6 committee mulling subpoenas, testimony from riot participants House erupts in anger over Jan. 6 and Trump's role 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 PelosiHouse rejects GOP effort to seat McCarthy's picks for Jan. 6 panel GOP brawls over Trump on eve of first Jan. 6 hearing Five things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work 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) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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 BassScott: 'There is hope' for police reform bill Biden: Republicans who say Democrats want to defund the police are lying Omar leads lawmakers in calling for US envoy to combat Islamophobia 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 EngelNYC snafu the latest flub from a broken elections agency Cynthia Nixon backs primary challenger to Rep. Carolyn Maloney Democrats call on Blinken to set new sexual misconduct policies at State Department 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 JeffriesDemocrat unveils bill to allow only House members to serve as Speaker Progressive fighting turns personal on internal call over antitrust bills Democratic tensions simmer in House between left, center 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 LeeOvernight Defense: 6B Pentagon spending bill advances | Navy secretary nominee glides through hearing | Obstacles mount in Capitol security funding fight House panel advances 6B Pentagon bill on party-line vote House panel votes to repeal 2001, 2002 war authorizations MORE (Calif.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOvernight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia US launches second Somalia strike in week Omar reflects on personal experiences with hate in making case for new envoy MORE (Minn.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyOmar reflects on personal experiences with hate in making case for new envoy Overnight Health Care: Fauci clashes with Paul - again | New York reaches .1B settlement with opioid distributors | Delta variant accounts for 83 percent of US COVID-19 cases Duckworth, Pressley introduce bill to provide paid family leave for those who experience miscarriage MORE (Mass.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibOmar reflects on personal experiences with hate in making case for new envoy House passes bill requiring EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water Ohio becomes battleground for rival Democratic factions MORE (Mich.) and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezGrassley pressured to run as Democrats set sights on Iowa JD Vance takes aim at culture wars, childless politicians Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary 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 CicillineLobbying world Progressive fighting turns personal on internal call over antitrust bills Top Democrat leads bipartisan trip to Middle East 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.