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Democrats target Trump defenses in first impeachment hearing
Two articulate and polished career diplomats lend gravitas to much-anticipated public event

House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, joined by other House Democrats, speaks to reporters Wednesday's hearing. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

House Democrats used the first day of impeachment hearings to take aim at the various defenses President Donald Trump and his congressional allies have raised during the inquiry into his Ukraine dealings — a strategy that allows them to advance their case alongside a drumbeat of witness testimony over the next two weeks.

The House Intelligence Committee started that push Wednesday with two articulate and polished veteran diplomats, whose deep knowledge of Ukraine turned into succinct explanations of the unusual circumstances surrounding how the Trump administration handled almost $400 million in military aid to the country.

Trump, White House aides show some restraint on Day One of public impeachment hearings
‘I haven’t watched,’ president claims after spokeswoman called televised session ‘boring’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Donald Trump hold a joint press conference following their meeting at the White House on Wednesday. Trump also weighed in on Wednesday’s impeachment hearing. (Halil Sagirkaya/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

ANALYSIS — For once, the often-brash and always-combative Trump White House played it safe.

On day one of House Democrats’ public impeachment hearings, President Donald Trump and his top aides opted against firing back to sometimes-damning testimony by two administration witnesses and allegations of corrupt intent from Intelligence Committee Democrats.

GOP relies on familiar defenses as impeachment hearings open
Jordan presses witnesses on Ukraine aid being released without investigation sought

Ranking member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and minority counsel Stephen Castor, confer during the House Intelligence Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Republicans reached for oft-cited complaints about the impeachment process Wednesday to counter arguments from Democrats and detailed statements from two career diplomats at the start of what will likely be several weeks of contentious hearings into President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

It wasn’t until early afternoon, when a temporary member added to the House Intelligence Committee roster to bolster questioning during the televised proceedings, provided the most forceful defense of Trump in a hearing that otherwise shed little new light — for the viewing public, at least — on the weeks-long inquiry.

Hill staffers in both parties overwhelmingly believe Trump headed for impeachment
But both sides also agree the Senate won't remove the president from office

Speaker Nancy Pelosi talks during a news conference just before the House vote on a resolution to formalize the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill on Oct. 31. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

If Donald Trump’s presidency feels like a roller-coaster ride, with each hair-raising turn of events quickly giving way to a new one — and opinions about him constantly in motion — the results of CQ Roll Call’s Capitol Insiders Survey in 2019 buttress that view.

Few congressional staffers thought, at the beginning of the year, that Trump was headed for impeachment. But the results of CQ Roll Call’s October poll are unambiguous: Staffers in both parties overwhelmingly believe Trump will become the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

Trump impeachment makes for tricky messaging for Democrats
As public hearings start, Democrats have to cut through complicated issues

House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., speaks to reporters in the Capitol last month. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats begin the public portion of their push to impeach President Donald Trump this week with what they say is a powerful case that the president used his office for personal political gain — but they face a high-stakes challenge to convey that to a sharply divided public.

The House Intelligence Committee has its first impeachment hearings scheduled for Wednesday and Friday following weeks of closed-door depositions. The witnesses testifying in the open come from the same roster of unknown diplomats and bureaucrats who in their private interviews detailed complex matters of foreign diplomacy that are unfamiliar to most Americans.

McCarthy temporarily puts Jordan on Intelligence Committee for impeachment hearings
Jordan will replace Rick Crawford, who will get his seat back impeachment proceedings conclude

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan will serve on the Intelligence Committee during public impeachment proceedings. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Oversight ranking member Jim Jordan will serve on the Intelligence Committee during public impeachment proceedings, temporarily replacing fellow Republican Rick Crawford, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced Friday.

Jordan has been the leading Republican in the closed-door impeachment inquiry depositions that have been conducted jointly by the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs panels. Under procedures the House approved Oct. 31, the Intelligence Committee will be the sole panel participating in the public hearings. (Later, the Judiciary Committee, which Jordan is already on, will conduct additional public proceedings for considering articles of impeachment.)

Impeachment strains longstanding bipartisan support for Ukraine
Consensus built on keeping Ukraine inside the Western European camp

President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy look on during a meeting at the United Nations in New York on Sept. 25. (Getty Images file photo)

The bipartisan backing for Ukraine in its long face-off with Russia has been a hallmark of Congress’ role in foreign policymaking for decades. Congress — both parties — has generally been willing to confront Moscow more forcefully over its treatment of Ukraine than the Trump, Obama or George W. Bush White Houses.

But with U.S. policy toward Ukraine the centerpiece of the impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump’s antipathy toward Kyiv out in the open, and Republicans not wanting to break with their GOP president publicly over Ukraine policy, concern is rising that this longstanding bipartisan consensus to keep Ukraine inside the Western European camp could erode.

Senate Democrats skeptical of Warren’s ‘Medicare for All’ push
Hesitation from rank-and-file Democrats shows how fraught the issue is within the party

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said she was confident Medicare for All could earn support in Congress. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s colleagues aren’t exactly jumping to voice support for her plan to finance “Medicare for All.”

The hesitation from rank-and-file Democrats across the political spectrum on backing the Massachusetts Democrat’s plan shows how fraught the issue is within the party – and how challenging it would be for a Democratic White House to shepherd a plan through Congress.

Republicans push for whistleblower's identity, but not naming names — yet
President and his son encourage media to out the whistleblower, while lawyers caution liability

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., at a campaign rally Monday with President Donald Trump in Kentucky called for the media to expose the identity of the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry. (Bryan Woolston/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump and his congressional allies have created an uneasy tension on Capitol Hill around a push to out the whistleblower whose report launched the House impeachment inquiry, in the days since a right-wing outlet reported a name and work history without direct confirmation.

Trump, at the White House on Sunday, discussed the details of the report but didn’t mention the name and twice added: “I don’t know if that’s true or not.” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, mentioned a resume item at a Republican press conference Friday and on Fox News on Tuesday but didn’t say the name.

Impeachment deposition bickering offers preview of brinkmanship to come in public hearings
Jordan, Schiff exchanges on process illustrate distrust between the parties

Rep. Jim Jordan has questioned the process, such as members' ability to ask questions, during depositions. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The first closed-door deposition in the House’s impeachment inquiry opened with a partisan squabble about whether members would be able to question witnesses. The bickering showed a distrust between Democrats and Republicans that has consumed the deliberations ever since. 

That is unlikely to go away anytime soon as lawmakers prepare for public hearings that are expected to begin later this month. Some of the process questions Republicans raised that led to partisan disputes in the depositions have seemingly been put to bed, while others may spill into public hearings.