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Inside Republicans' defense strategy for impeachment

Jim Jordan
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