Here are the key players to watch at impeachment hearing

Here are the key players to watch at impeachment hearing
© Greg Nash - Getty Images

The career State Department officials testifying in the first public proceedings of the impeachment inquiry won’t be the only ones in the spotlight on Wednesday. 

Members of the House Intelligence Committee from across the political spectrum will be scrutinized for how they handle the first open hearing after weeks of clashing behind closed doors.


And it won’t just be lawmakers: Key committee staff typically relegated to tasks behind the scenes will have the rare chance to ask questions of witnesses before the cameras as well.

The two witnesses slated to appear in public on Wednesday have already given private testimony before impeachment investigators: William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs.

That’s given congressional inquisitors an opportunity to know which questions will yield the most informative answers as both parties make their public case on impeachment.

Here’s who to watch during the first public impeachment hearing.

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.)

The House Intelligence Committee chairman has become the face of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry and will be the first lawmaker to question the witnesses.

He’ll be under pressure to make sure that Democrats’ first public hearing doesn’t go off the rails and that it effectively lays out a narrative of how 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 pressured the Ukrainian government to open investigations into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for president Trump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Biden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina MORE and his son Hunter Biden.

“I hope that all Members will approach these proceedings with the seriousness of purpose and love of country that they demand. The American people and the Constitution deserve nothing less,” Schiff wrote in a letter to colleagues on Tuesday.

Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesDemocratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' House Democrats release second batch of Parnas materials Democratic lawmaker says Nunes threatened to sue him over criticism MORE (R-Calif.)

Nunes didn’t play as active a role in the closed-door depositions as other GOP lawmakers who regularly appeared before the cameras afterward to defend Trump. But he will be front and center starting Wednesday in his role as the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee.

Like Schiff, he will be granted time to make an opening statement and ask questions for up to 45 minutes. Much of that time will likely be yielded to staff counsel, but Nunes will still be in a position of prominence, seated next to Schiff for the questioning.

Expect Nunes to follow the GOP strategy of maintaining that Trump didn’t explicitly link military aid to opening investigations into the Bidens in the July 25 call with the Ukrainian president and that Taylor and Kent didn’t interact directly with the president.

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanSunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial Trump's legal team gets set for impeachment trial Five lingering questions as impeachment heads to Senate MORE (R-Ohio)

House GOP leaders parachuted Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, into the Intelligence Committee ranks last week to ensure that their lead investigator in the closed-door depositions could take part in the public impeachment hearings.

Republicans also designated the Oversight and Reform Committee’s chief GOP counsel, Steve Castor, as a shared staffer between the two committees for the duration of the impeachment inquiry so that Nunes can yield to him during the initial round of questioning.

Other members of the committee will then each get five minutes to ask questions, meaning that Jordan’s time in the spotlight will be limited. But he will be under pressure to show that the special moves made to ensure his presence at the hearings actually make a strategic difference.

Daniel Goldman

Goldman will be a familiar face to MSNBC viewers after frequently appearing on the network during its coverage of 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 probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.


The former cable news legal analyst turned Intelligence Committee director of investigations led much of the witness questioning for Democrats during the closed-door impeachment proceedings, along with senior counsel Daniel Noble, and is likely to do the same before the cameras.

Goldman previously prosecuted white collar and organized crime cases in the Southern District of New York, including Russian and Italian crime rings. Democrats are hoping that the special hearing format, with its extensive staff-led questioning, will yield more informative answers out of witnesses than the viral moments that lawmakers may seek during their five minutes of questioning.

Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHouse Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts Hurd says Democrats, media are being manipulated by Iran Bottom Line MORE (R-Texas)

Hurd, a former CIA officer, has broken with his party at times in recent weeks by calling to protect the identity of the whistleblower who first sparked the House impeachment inquiry and by stating that pressuring a foreign government to investigate a political rival is wrong.

“Trying to get information on a political rival to use in a political campaign is not something a president or any official should be doing,” Hurd said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Most Republicans have said that that would be a violation of the law,” he added.

Hurd is retiring next year instead of running for reelection in a competitive swing district and is seen as more likely to break with the party line, though he sided with all other Republicans in voting against approving procedures for the impeachment inquiry’s public phase.

During the Intelligence Committee hearing in September with acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph MaguireJoseph MaguireThe Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial Schiff schedules public hearing with US intel chief  Democrats request briefing on intel behind Trump's embassy threat claim MORE, Hurd tweeted that “there is a lot in the whistleblower complaint that is concerning.”

At the same time, Hurd is backing the GOP calls to have Hunter Biden testify publicly.

Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeTrump's legal team gets set for impeachment trial Five lingering questions as impeachment heads to Senate Graham: Not 'wise' for House Republicans to serve on Trump trial team MORE (R-Texas)

The former U.S. attorney and federal terrorism prosecutor is considered one of the GOP’s most effective cross-examiners.

He drew plaudits from Republicans in July for his defense of Trump during Mueller’s testimony before Congress. Four days later, Trump announced that he would nominate Ratcliffe to become the next director of national intelligence. Trump ultimately withdrew his nomination following reports that Ratcliffe exaggerated his work on terrorism cases.

Several GOP senators had declined to endorse Ratcliffe’s nomination amid criticism from Democrats that he was too political for the position. Ratcliffe will only have five minutes to cross-examine witnesses, but he’s expected to be one of the most aggressive Trump defenders.