Democrats zero in on Ukraine call as impeachment support grows

House Democrats are homing in their impeachment inquiry to focus squarely on President Trump’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.

{mosads}The House Intelligence Committee, led by Rep. Adam Schiff (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 Pelosi (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 Mueller’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 Bass (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 Engel (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 Jeffries (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 Lee (Calif.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (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 Cicilline (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.

Tags Adam Schiff Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Ayanna Pressley Barbara Lee David Cicilline Donald Trump Eliot Engel Hakeem Jeffries House Intelligence Committee House Judiciary Committee Ilhan Omar Impeachment Karen Bass Nancy Pelosi Rashida Tlaib Robert Mueller Tony Cardenas Ukraine whistleblower complaint

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