GOP lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee, and other key Republicans in the lower chamber, emerged from a strategy meeting in the Capitol basement Tuesday expressing confidence in their readiness for Wednesday’s impeachment hearing.
As the impeachment inquiry moves into its third phase — transitioning from the House Intelligence Committee to the Judiciary Committee — Republicans said they feel they are in a better position than Democrats to control the narrative, with some casting doubt on whether Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) can be as effective as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) in presenting Democrats’ case against President Trump.
“I have seen this as Schiff’s pet project or his baby that he’s walking through, something that started with his team before there was even a whistleblower’s complaint. And from that early in the timeline to now, it’s been his,” Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) told reporters.
“And I don’t know if there’s any other Democrat in the House of Representatives who is able to even try to replicate what is going on inside of Schiff’s head — he has knowledge that he clearly hasn’t shared with his colleagues.”
Zeldin — who does not sit on the Judiciary Committee but has played a leading role in defending the president since Democrats launched the probe — attended Tuesday’s strategy meeting along with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) to help their colleagues on the panel prepare.
House Judiciary ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) characterized Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) selecting Schiff over Nadler to lead the initial impeachment inquiry efforts as an attempt for Pelosi and Schiff to “completely control the narrative.”
“The thing is, we’re bringing it back to the committee where it should have been all along,” he said.
Attacking Schiff’s handling of the probe is expected to be a key component in Republicans’ strategy during the Judiciary hearings. Members are gearing up to blast the California Democrat for having a staff counsel present the Intelligence Committee’s report laying out their findings in their probe into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine — which was released Tuesday afternoon — instead of the chairman appearing before the committee.
“To me, Adam Schiff not presenting this report challenges the veracity of the entire report, the entire process. It tells me that he very much likes to hide behind the gavel and hide behind the story, but doesn’t want to defend his report,” Collins continued.
“And there’s no reason, because he’s compared himself to a special counsel — Ken Starr came and testified, took questions from everyone including President Clinton’s attorney. I mean, is Adam Schiff better than that?”
Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) slammed Democrats on the committee for calling in four constitutional law experts as its witnesses for the first hearing held before the panel, but said Republicans have made sure they are prepared for Wednesday.
“Most of us have very little interest in academic exercises. We’ve already heard from law professors. Most of us are attorneys; we understand very well that this law is not complex. We don’t need a primer on constitutional law,” he said. “What we wish this was was a true inquiry into the facts, and we’re being denied that.”
“It was just encouraging to talk to him [Pence] and, you know,” Collins said. “And of course they’re watching it as we go forward.”