GOP seeks to gain more control of impeachment narrative

House Republicans are trying to get more control over the public narrative on impeachment after weeks where they’ve been on the back foot.

The conference has been unnerved by polls showing growing support across the country for impeachment — including a survey released Wednesday by Fox News that showed 51 percent back impeaching President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE.

They’ve also criticized the administration and their own leadership for its initial messaging, arguing mixed signals and confusion have allowed Democrats to control the story.

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Even Republicans highly critical of Democratic tactics acknowledge the majority has had the upper hand in the way the story is being seen by the public so far.

“I'll be the first to admit that [House Intelligence Committee Chairman] Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSunday Talk Shows: Lawmakers look ahead to House vote on articles of impeachment, Senate trial Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records Democrats approve two articles of impeachment against Trump in Judiciary vote MORE often times can control the narrative based on innuendo that oftentimes takes months, if not years to prove that the innuendo is not backed up by facts,” Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy GOP lawmakers jockey for positions as managers The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — Sparks fly as House Judiciary debates impeachment articles MORE (R-N.C.), one of Trump’s strongest allies in the House, told The Hill. 

But Republicans think their party is getting back on track with the letter Trump’s White House counsel sent to House Democrats this week announcing they would no longer cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. 

The letter is allowing the GOP to coalesce around the argument that Democrats are determined to remove Trump from office without an election — political ground that Republicans see as easier for them to go on the attack on impeachment. 

It's also helping Republicans put forth the argument that Democrats are moving forward with an unfair process — a strategy that avoids talking about some of the specifics of the Trump case.

The GOP has been divided, for example, over whether Trump's communications with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky were proper — even if they are more unified around the idea that they do not meet the grounds for impeachment.

Meadows said that Republicans should be talking about process, while making the argument that Democrats are being unfair.

“I think it's important that we talk about a fair process, we talk about other alternatives that might have been the motive behind some of the Ukraine involvement with the previous Democrat campaign for president and start focusing on a process that needs to be able to have both a point but a counterpoint to the argument,” he said.

He and other GOP lawmakers accuse Democrats of “cherry-picking” information released to the public — an argument that was frequently aimed at the GOP when it was in the majority.

They have pressed Democrats to release the full transcript of former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerPush to investigate Bidens sets up potential for Senate turf war Senate confirms Brouillette to replace Perry as Energy secretary How Democrats' missing witnesses could fill in the Ukraine story MORE’s deposition.

Rep. Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneSessions leads GOP Senate primary field in Alabama, internal poll shows Israeli, Palestinian business leaders seek Trump boost for investment project Sessions vows to 'work for' Trump endorsement MORE (R-Ala.) called the Democratic probe “an illegitimate investigation.”

While he said this week’s letter for the White House was helpful, he also didn’t describe it as a panacea.

“I don't know that it necessarily gives us a unifying message so much as a unifying understanding about where we are and where we need to be going forward,” he said.

Republicans hope they can focus their attacks on centrist Democrats who may be hearing criticisms about their party’s push on impeachment.

The National Republican Campaign Committee has issued polling data showing swing-district voters are not keen on impeachment.

“We know that there are moderate Democrats in the House who are in a very difficult position overall,” said Byrne, who added that the GOP “shouldn't hesitate to message directly into their districts with their voters to let them know what's going on.”

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The House GOP's campaign arm plans lean into attacks on centrist freshmen who flipped Republican seats in the midterms while hammering Democratic leadership for opting against holding a floor vote to authorize impeachment proceedings.

“I think the Democrats' unwillingness to have a formal vote on this is telling on how they're handling this — they want to control the information, they don't want to make their marginal members vote on it,” NRCC spokesman Chris Pack told The Hill.

The administration has also pressed Democrats to hold a vote to formally begin an impeachment inquiry, a step Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiUSMCA is nice but no model Anti-impeachment Democrat poised to switch parties Grassley urges White House to help farmers in year-end tax talks MORE (D-Calif.) notes she is under no requirement to take. Pelosi for months avoided backing impeachment, because she feared it could hurt centrist Democrats.

“[Internal polling] shows that the voters in these battleground districts that we're targeting don't want this impeachment, they want members to focus on the stuff they elected them to office to do, and they're not doing it,” Pack said.