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White House appoints GOP House members to advise Trump’s impeachment team

The White House announced Monday that President Trump appointed several prominent Republican House members to advise his impeachment defense team ahead of the Senate trial set to begin this week.

GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), John Ratcliffe Texas), Mike Johnson (La.), Mark Meadows (N.C.), Debbie Lesko (Ariz.), Lee Zeldin (N.Y.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Doug Collins are set to play leading roles.

A statement from the White House said the lawmakers “have provided guidance to the White House team, which was prohibited from participating in the proceedings concocted by Democrats in the House of Representatives” throughout the House proceedings and would continue to do so in the Senate.

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The lawmakers served as some of the president’s strongest allies during the House’s impeachment proceedings, adamantly defending the president’s dealings with Ukraine.  

Jordan, a firebrand conservative who serves as the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee and a leading member of the House Freedom Caucus, has garnered a reputation for being one of Trump’s most aggressive attack dogs on impeachment.

Ratcliffe, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee and served as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas before being elected to Congress, was previously tapped by the president last year to become the director of national intelligence before he withdrew from consideration. His line of questioning during the public hearings was widely praised by his GOP colleagues in the House. 

Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and confidant to the president, played a key role in pushing back against Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) during the final hearings. And Johnson, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee who also sits on the House Judiciary Committee, practiced constitutional law.

Stefanik, Zeldin and Lesko rose to be leading voices in the push back against impeachment during the public hearing in the House. And Meadows, one of Trump’s top confidants in the House, has been at the forefront on pushing back against Democrats’ allegations against the president. 

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Johnson noted ahead of the announcement that there was some reluctance to have House members participate in the Senate trial, with GOP lawmakers in the upper chamber citing concerns the optics of adding House members could be detrimental to the seriousness of the trial. 

“There was some resistance or concern in the Senate that it would become more of a show than a trial and I tried to make very, the people that have been involved in the discussion on this are very serious about this, I mean I was a litigator for 20 years in federal court on constitutional law cases, so this is within my wheelhouse and something I have great interest in,” Johnson said. “And the others that I have mentioned feel the same way, so it would be exactly the opposite of the concerns that’s been expressed on the other side.”

Key Republican allies in the Senate have also warned against such appointments, warning that the addition of Republican House members would cast the Senate trial in a partisan light.

“I don’t think it’s wise. I think we need to elevate the argument beyond body politics, beyond party politics and talk about the constitutional problems with these two articles,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters earlier this month.

House lawmakers sent two articles of impeachment to the Senate earlier this month, accusing the president of abusing his power and obstructing Congress. Trump and his allies have largely dismissed the impeachment inquiry as a partisan effort by Democrats to overturn the 2016 election.

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White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his team of lawyers in the counsel’s office and the president’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow have been preparing their defense for weeks. 

The House passed two articles of impeachment against Trump largely along party lines in December, accusing the commander-in-chief of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. House Democrats launched their probe into the president’s handling of foreign policy in Kyiv following a whistleblower complaint alleging Trump withheld aid to Ukraine in an attempt to pressure the county to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, and his son Hunter for political gain. 

After weeks of withholding articles — arguing she needed more details on how the Senate will conduct its trial — Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced on Wednesday she tapped House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Nadler, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), and Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) as impeachment managers, which essentially play the role of prosecutors during the Senate proceedings. 

 

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