Congress

House Republicans eye placing Jim Jordan on Intel panel during impeachment inquiry

Jim Jordan

House Republican leadership is looking to load up the Intelligence Committee with some of President Donald Trump’s top defenders, including Rep. Jim Jordan, as the panel has become ground zero for impeachment.

“If Democrats are going to turn Intel into the impeachment committee, I am going to make adjustments to that committee accordingly, for a short period of time,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told POLITICO.

Democrats have put the House Intelligence Committee in charge of the open hearings that could start next week even though threecommittees have been conducting closed-door interviews with impeachment witnesses. That means some of Trump’s best attack dogs, like Jordan of Ohio, will be effectively sidelined when Democrats take their impeachment probe public.

But House Republicans want to temporarily add some of the president’s allies to the Intelligence panel, arguing that those members have been sitting in on all the depositions and could be well equipped to cross examine witnesses and defend Trump.

The possibility Jordan or other Trump allies could be temporarily moved to the Intelligence Committee was first reported by CBS News. But McCarthy’s comments reflect the strongest signal to date that GOP leadership is considering the idea.

The House Intelligence Committee is a highly specialized panel that has long been home to bipartisan intelligence work. But the panel fractured amid partisan infighting during the bitter Russia investigation, and continues to be one of the most polarized committees on Capitol Hill.

There is also growing anxiety in the GOP about the current lineup of Republicans who will be in charge of leading Trump’s public defense strategy.

“. @GOPLeader has full discretion to put our most effective questioners on intel for this matter,” tweeted Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), another Trump ally. “If @Jim_Jordan @RepMarkMeadows & @RepLeeZeldin aren’t moved on in favor of Republicans who have skipped a majority of the testimony, then shame on us for failing @realDonaldTrump.”

Along with Jordan, Reps. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Lee Zeldin of New York have been some of Trump’s most visible defenders in the impeachment fight, often leading impromptu news conferences with reporters after closed-door depositions and regularly defending Trump on cable news.

Jordan is the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee; Meadows is a former Freedom Caucus chief who is one of the president’s closest confidants on Capitol Hill; and Zeldin is a backbench lawmaker who has raised his profile during the impeachment fight and has caught Trump’s eye.

There are, however, some key Trump allies on the Intel committee — including ranking Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California and Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas, a former prosecutor.

But some of the other Republican members on the committee, like Reps. Mike Turner of Ohio and Will Hurd of Texas, are viewed as less staunch defenders: Both have expressed concern over Trump’s communications with Ukraine. And Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, another GOP member on the panel, is retiring.

Adding Jordan or anyone else to the committee could get messy, as doing so would require removing someone else from the panel. Unlike other committees, though, appointments to the Intelligence Committee are made solely at the minority leader’s discretion. Congress is on a week-long break for recess, so any changes likely wouldn’t happen until next week, according to GOP sources.

If McCarthy adds Jordan or Meadows to the panel, it would cap off a remarkable turnaround for their once-contentious relationship. Jordan and Meadows, co-founders of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, were a thorn in the side of GOP leadership when Republicans held the House. And Jordan even challenged McCarthy for minority leader last year.

But since being relegated to the minority, Jordan and Meadows have worked closely with McCarthy and his leadership team, especially amid the impeachment probe. Jordan has appeared alongside GOP leaders at their weekly news conferences, while Jordan, Meadows and Zeldin were all invited to a leadership meeting last week to help plot the party’s impeachment defense strategy.

“Everything has a season. This [impeachment process] is so unfair that it brings together people that have to fight for the common cause of fairness,” Meadows said last week.