Lawmakers to watch during Wednesday’s impeachment hearing

Members of a panel that’s been known to go off the rails in the past will be in the spotlight on Wednesday as the House Judiciary Committee takes the stage in the impeachment inquiry.

The 41-member committee includes staunch conservatives and leading liberals, and is a larger and more partisan panel than the House Intelligence Committee, which on Tuesday released the report of its impeachment findings.

The focus on Wednesday is likely to be more on the members of Judiciary than the witnesses — four constitutional experts who are not witnesses to President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.


Here’s who to watch during the Judiciary Committee’s first hearing.


Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.)

After being sidelined for more than two months, Nadler is resuming his role at the center of the drive for impeachment. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) was able to fend off GOP interruptions during two weeks of public hearings, and Nadler will be closely watched for how well he prevents the hearings now under his watch from devolving into partisan shouting matches.

Nadler clashed with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for much of the year over moving ahead with impeachment in response to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia’s election interference. But they are both now on the same page since the Speaker endorsed launching the inquiry in response to Trump’s efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and the 2016 election.

It’s not the first impeachment rodeo for Nadler. He was in the House during the impeachment of former President Clinton in 1998. Only two other Democrats on the committee can say the same: Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) — who also served as a staffer during the impeachment process for former President Nixon — and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).



Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.)

Collins’s rapid-fire pace and knowledge of House procedure is sure to pose a challenge for Democrats as they try to keep the proceedings under control.

Unlike the veteran Nadler, Collins became his committee’s ranking Republican just this year after serving in the House since 2013. He’s seen as a rising star and has drawn attention from Trump, who unsuccessfully pushed Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to appoint Collins to the Senate seat being vacated this month by retiring GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson.

Collins may not get the Senate seat, but Wednesday’s platform will be a nice consolation prize as he seeks to defend Trump.


Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)

House GOP leaders temporarily added Jordan to the Intelligence Committee so that he could participate in its public hearings. A Judiciary member, he will now be expected to reprise his role as a pugnacious Trump defender.

Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) will be another familiar face. During the Intelligence Committee hearings, he demonstrated cross-examining abilities honed as a U.S. attorney and federal terrorism prosecutor.


Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.)

Gaetz crashed two closed-door witness depositions in October, which he wasn’t allowed to attend since he’s not on the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs or Oversight and Reform committees. Now he’ll have a secured moment in the spotlight as a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Gaetz is among a number of ardent conservatives and Trump allies on the panel, including Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), the Freedom Caucus chairman; Mike Johnson (R-La.), the Republican Study Committee chairman; Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), who has been known to tangle with witnesses in the past; and Jordan.


Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.)

Raskin sat in on the closed-door witness depositions as a member of the Oversight and Reform Committee and will have a turn asking questions during public hearings in the Judiciary Committee.

The second-term Maryland Democrat has become a prominent face on the panel due to his expertise as a constitutional law professor. Democrats have frequently turned to him as a constitutional consultant as they’ve pursued investigations into the Trump administration.

“For most people, that’s unbelievably esoteric and dry. And for me, it’s spellbinding,” Raskin said of the Constitution during an interview with The Hill earlier this year.


Raskin has also been floated as a potential impeachment manager for when the process moves to the Senate for a trial, making his performance in the committee hearings all the more critical for such a role.


Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.)

Cohen, who chairs the Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, is no stranger to theatrics. He memorably brought a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and a ceramic chicken to a hearing in early May to mock Attorney General William Barr for declining to show up and answer lawmakers’ questions about the Mueller report.

While Cohen drew plenty of media attention for the chicken emphasis, the stunt also drew some eye-rolling and accusations that Democrats were turning their oversight efforts into a circus. Nadler will be on the hook to ensure that the liberals on his committee maintain a serious and somber tone like their Intelligence Committee counterparts.

Cohen will be surrounded by plenty of other strident liberals on the panel, such as Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), a Progressive Caucus co-chair, and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a frequent cable news presence who’s gone viral for his tweets criticizing Trump.



Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.)

In contrast to the aggressive liberals on the committee, McBath is one of the most vulnerable freshmen heading into 2020.

She represents a district in the Atlanta suburbs that Trump carried by just over a point but had been held by the GOP for four decades. McBath will be a model for other frontline Democrats in competitive districts carrying out the balancing act of supporting an impeachment process they held at arm’s length for most of this year.

McBath has stood by her support for the impeachment inquiry. After Donald Trump Jr. tweeted about protesters showing up at McBath’s district office, she replied: “I refuse to be intimidated, I will do what is right.

Another freshman on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.), is also on Republicans’ target list heading into 2020. Mucarsel-Powell may be on slightly easier terrain in her district given that Hillary Clinton carried it by 16 points in 2016. Even so, Mucarsel-Powell defeated a centrist GOP incumbent by only slightly more than a single percentage point.

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Written by Alan Smith

Alan Smith

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