Nov 10, 2019

Inside Republicans' defense strategy for impeachment

Jim Jordan. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Republican members and staffers on the House Intelligence Committee spent the weekend planning how to undermine the witnesses' credibility and convince the viewing public that Democrats have wiped away their due process rights.

Driving the news: This week will see three key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry testify publicly for the first time. Republicans plan to unleash their top attack dogs — including Rep. Jim Jordan, who was just made a member of the committee on Friday, and his general counsel Steve Castor, who will lead their interrogation.

The big picture: A GOP committee aide said Republicans will focus on three main areas in their defense of the president. Two other GOP committee sources confirmed the first source's account:

1. Process arguments: Republicans plan to give "speeches" during their allotted time about what they will describe as the lack of due process rights for the House minority and the White House.

2. Counters to witnesses: They will argue that much of the evidence Democrats have gathered is largely based on "hearsay."

  • They'll harp on the fact that the anonymous whistleblower, who launched the Ukraine saga, based his or her complaint on second- and third-hand knowledge.
  • They'll also point to how some witnesses heard things third-hand. (For example, Taylor has described how former NSC staffer Tim Morrison told him about conversations that Morrison himself had overheard and not been privy to.)
  • They will highlight how Taylor and Kent have had virtually no communication with Trump. "That'll be a major point," the GOP aide said.

Worth noting: Democratic committee aides have already prepared a rebuttal to this attack.

  • Dems will say they see this as a non-issue. One aide said they'll characterize the whistleblower as someone who sounded the alarm, and that alarm led to a legitimate fire. 

3. Affirmative defense: Republicans will argue that the officials who had the most direct access to the president, such as former Ukraine adviser Kurt Volker, said there was no clear quid pro quo.

  • They will also argue that each witness has "pretty glaring flaws," the aide said, claiming that Yovanovitch's testimony was centered on her "political beef" with Trump.

Go deeper: Inside Democrats' preparations for the public impeachment battle

Go deeper

What to expect from impeachment

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Starting today, Democrats will do everything they can to put the most damaging testimony against President Trump in front of the public — while Republicans try to put as much distance as possible between Trump and the efforts to pressure Ukraine.

Why it matters: The American public, which has largely been left out of the impeachment process so far, will get a front row seat to the fourth attempt in U.S. history to remove a president from office.

Go deeperArrowNov 13, 2019

Inside Democrats' preparations for the public impeachment battle

House Democratic leaders. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Three key witnesses in the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry will testify this week in a series of nationally televised hearings that Democrats are hoping will shock Americans enough to convince them that President Trump must be removed from office.

Why it matters: This public phase of impeachment is arguably the most important part of Democrats' efforts so far, as public sentiment will determine how this plays out.

Go deeperArrowNov 10, 2019

Inside Republicans' defense strategy for Week 2 of impeachment hearings

Republican counsel Steve Castor listens to Rep. Jim Jordan. Photo: Joshua Roberts - Pool/Getty Images

Republicans' goal this week is to create as much distance as possible between President Trump and the witnesses and make the case that Trump himself never specifically ordered a halt on aid to Ukraine with the intention of forcing a political investigation.

Behind the scenes: Republicans think Trump's former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and former NSC official Tim Morrison will be their star witnesses, though some are griping that Schiff has tucked their hearing into Tuesday afternoon, Republican officials working on impeachment tell Axios.

Go deeperArrowNov 17, 2019