Politics 5 key lawmakers to watch as Congress sets ground rules for Trump impeachment inquiry

12:00  31 october  2019
12:00  31 october  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

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WASHINGTON – The vote Thursday on a House resolution laying out the next phase of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump seems like a foregone conclusion.

At least 218 Democrats already have signaled their support for moving forward with the measure, enough to ensure its passage. The resolution is not an endorsement of whether Trump should be impeached but rather the establishment of ground rules to gather facts and interview witnesses that would help determine whether he committed an impeachable offense.

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Still, the vote on the eight-page resolution that outlines the next phase of the impeachment inquiry is the first opportunity for House members to demonstrate whether they think the process is legitimate since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the formal impeachment inquiry Sept. 24.

It won't be a straight party-line vote.

The overwhelming majority of Democrats are expected to support it but up to a dozen moderates in the party representing districts Trump won in 2016 could break away and oppose it. Almost every Republican is expected to oppose it but a few, especially those who are not running for re-election, could decide to support it.

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The inquiry centers on the administration's efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating 2020 political rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in exchange for foreign military aid approved earlier by Congress.

Critics have said the president abused the power of his office by making the demand but Trump has described the conversation as "perfect," and his allies say he was right to demand that an ally address corruption as a condition of receiving the $400 million in military aid.

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As the House prepares to vote on the impeachment resolution Thursday, here are some key lawmakers to watch: 

The Rising 

Pelosi launched the inquiry but New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, 49, who chairs the Democratic Caucus, is responsible for making sure it passes the House.

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The blunt-spoken, Brooklyn-born lawyer who has championed criminal justice reform during his four terms in Congress, has framed Thursday's vote as one of "conscience."

Under the process being implemented, "the time table and the votes that we take will be dictated by the facts and the truth and nothing else," he told reporters Tuesday. "We'll see what happens on Thursday. But, history will be watching to determine who we all are going to proceed and will be the ultimate judge of our conduct."

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It will also be the latest test for Jeffries' ability to rally the caucus, an important mile marker for a rising Democratic star who has been mentioned as Pelosi's eventual successor to lead the party.

The Reluctant Democrat

For nearly three decades, Democrat Collin Petersen has represented his sprawling, rural Minnesota district that stretches from Iowa to Canada with the same conservative, agrarian-minded perspective of his constituents.

Peterson, 75, who chairs the House Committee on Agriculture, is among a handful of Democrats who have yet to endorse the impeachment inquiry and are not expected to support the resolution Thursday.

“If anyone thinks a partisan impeachment process would constrain President Trump, they are fooling themselves," he said in a statement released to Minnesota media outlets last month. "Without significant bipartisan support, impeachment proceedings will be a lengthy and divisive action with no resolution."

And he has something else to consider: Trump won his district by more than 30 percentage points over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The Trump Defender

Few Republicans in Congress have stuck up for the president as fiercely as Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a former collegiate wrestling champion who co-founded the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus.

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Jordan, 45, has dismissed the impeachment inquiry as a "sham" being run by Democrats upset about Trump's election to the White House three years ago.

And he was among some three dozen Republican lawmakers whose protest in the Capitol of the way the inquiry is being handled temporarily halted the testimony of Defense Department official Laura Cooper, an impeachment witness.

"President Trump displayed unprecedented transparency by releasing a transcript of his call with a foreign leader," Jordan wrote in a column for USA TODAY earlier this month. "However, the Democrats’ impeachment push is shrouded in secrecy. Americans deserve more. Americans deserve to know exactly how Democrats are misusing their authority to undo the results of the 2016 election."

The Troubled Republican

Slideshow by photo services

Florida Rep. Francis Rooney brandishes a squarely establishment Republican resume: a business background that includes construction, real estate development, finance and electronics manufacturing; a deep-pocketed donor to GOP candidates and causes; and former ambassador to the Vatican nominated by President George W. Bush.

Now the soft-spoken congressman from Naples has drawn the spotlight for being one of the only Republican House members to raise alarms about the president's conduct on the call. Earlier this month, Rooney, 65, announced he would not seek a third term a day after saying he would not rule out impeachment.

“I’m not saying (Ukraine) rises to an impeachable offense. I’m not sure I know what an impeachable offenseis," he told USA TODAY last week. "I just want to get all the facts and think about it. Get a lot of opinions."

The decision not to jump on the Trump bandwagon with the vast majority of the GOP caucus has prompted speculation that he might support the resolution Thursday. A spokesman for Rooney did not immediately return a request Wednesday concerning how he would vote.

The Lonely Renegade

There's no question about how the House's lone independent, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, will vote.

Amash, 39, left the GOP in July saying he was "disenchanted with party politics" and "frightened by what I see from it." At the time, he was also the only GOP member of Congress to support impeaching President Donald Trump based on the findings of the Mueller Report – weeks before the controversy over Trump's Ukraine call erupted in September.

Trump went after Amash in a series of tweets, calling him "a total lightweight."

Amash, a five-term libertarian-leaning former school teacher whose district includes Grand Rapids, recently told The Hill newspaper he has not changed his mind about the president's conduct.

"Assuming the articles are drafted properly, yeah, I think there's impeachable conduct that could be included in articles that I would support,” he said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 5 key lawmakers to watch as Congress sets ground rules for Trump impeachment inquiry

Inside Adam Schiff’s Impeachment Game Plan .
‘This president, he’s like a planetary object,” Adam Schiff said. “He warps time. And things that you think happened a couple weeks ago, it turns out, only happened a day or two ago.” Schiff was slumped in a chair in his Washington office, tie askew and eyebrows ruffled, as if he’d been kneading his forehead. It was a little past 5:30 p.m. on the first Friday of October, the end of a week that, Schiff thought, “has been like three years compressed into a week.

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