Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday named Colorado's U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, a freshman Democrat from Aurora, as one of a seven-member team that will prosecute President Donald Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who led the probe, and Judiciary Chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler, whose committee approved the impeachment articles, will lead the team, which includes a diverse selection of lawmakers, particularly those with courtroom experience.
“Today is an important day,” said Pelosi on Wednesday, flanked by the team. “This is about the Constitution of the United States.”
Other members include Zoe Lofgren of California, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Sylvia Garcia of Texas and Val Demings of Florida.
Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House last month on charges of abuse of power over his pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden as Trump withheld aid from the country. He was also charged with obstructing Congress’ ensuing probe.
The House is set to vote later in the day to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial on whether the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are grounds for his removal. The managers will then walk the articles across the Capitol to the Senate.
Crow was among seven first-term Democratic lawmakers with military and national security backgrounds from conservative or swing districts who spurred the opening of an impeachment inquiry in September with an op-ed saying it would be an "impeachable offense" if Trump pressured a foreign government to investigate a political opponent.
"These allegations are stunning, both in the national security threat they pose and the potential corruption they represent," the lawmakers wrote.
Pelosi announced the inquiry the next day, setting in motion what will be only the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history, which comes against the backdrop of a politically divided nation and an election year.
“We thought that a joint effort would send a very strong message, that this was something that went to the core of our national security and defense backgrounds, something that we all share and that has been the basis for our relationship and our time in Congress so far,” Crow, a former Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told CQ-Roll Call.
He added: “I don’t think any of us thought that it would have a large impact."
After ousting five-term Republican Mike Coffman in the Aurora-based suburban 6th Congressional District in 2018, Crow has quickly emerged as a leading voice among House Democrats on national security matters, though his arguments for impeaching Trump have leaned heavily on his background as an attorney.
"The president’s abuse of power and scorn for our constitutional checks and balances is unprecedented. Unless we stand up against these abuses, we will set the country on a dangerous new course," Crow said during debate on the House floor the day lawmakers approved the impeachment articles on mostly party-line votes.
"Our founders created a system to ensure we would have no kings or dictators, a system that vested power in the people, to ensure that no man or woman is above the law," Crow concluded. "Generation after generation, this system has survived because people have fought for it. Today, it is our turn."
New details of Trump's efforts on Ukraine emerged late Tuesday, increasing pressure on senators to call witnesses in the trial, a step that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been reluctant to take.
House investigators announced they were turning over a “trove” of new records of phone calls, text messages and other information from Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the information shows Trump's effort ‘’to coerce Ukraine into helping the President’s reelection campaign." He said this and other new testimony must be included in the Senate trial.
The Senate is expected to transform into an impeachment court as early as Thursday, although significant proceedings wouldn't begin until next Tuesday after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The Constitution calls for the chief justice to preside over senators, who serve as jurors, to swear an oath to deliver "impartial justice.''
McConnell, who is negotiating rules for the trial proceedings, said all 53 GOP senators are on board with his plan to start the session and consider the issue of witnesses later.
Senate Republicans also signaled they would reject the idea of simply voting to dismiss the articles of impeachment against Trump, as Trump himself has suggested. McConnell agreed he does not have the votes to do that.
“There is little or no sentiment in the Republican conference for a motion to dismiss," McConnell said Tuesday. ‘’Our members feel we have an obligation to listen to the arguments."
A mounting number of senators say they want to ensure the ground rules include the possibility of calling new witnesses.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is leading an effort among some Republicans, including Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska for witness votes.
Romney said he wants to hear from John Bolton, the former national security adviser at the White House, who others have said raised alarms about the alternative foreign policy toward Ukraine being run by Giuliani.
Democrats have been pushing Republicans, who have a slim Senate majority, to consider new testimony, arguing that fresh information has emerged during Pelosi's monthlong delay in transmitting the charges.
Republicans control the chamber, 53-47, and are all but certain to acquit Trump. It takes just 51 votes during the impeachment trial to approve rules or call witnesses. Just four GOP senators could form a majority with Democrats to insist on new testimony. It also would take only 51 senators to vote to dismiss the charges against Trump.
It's unknown whether Colorado's Cory Gardner is among the Republican senators considering allowing the Senate to call witnesses, or whether the consistent Trump ally supports a quick dismissal of the charges. His office hasn't responded to inquiries from Colorado Politics about Gardner's stance, and he has deflected questions about impeachment procedure when reporters have caught him at the Capitol.
At Tuesday's private GOP lunch, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky warned that if witnesses are allowed, defense witnesses could also be called. He and other Republicans want to subpoena Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of a gas company in Ukraine, Burisma, while his father was vice president.
McConnell is drafting an organizing resolution that will outline the steps ahead. Approving it will be among their first votes of the trial, likely next Tuesday.
He prefers to model Trump's trial partly on the process used for then-President Bill Clinton's trial in 1999. It, too, contained motions for dismissal or calling new witnesses.
McConnell is hesitant to call new witnesses who would prolong the trial and put vulnerable senators who are up for reelection in 2020 in a bind with tough choices. At the same time, he wants to give those same senators ample room to show voters they are listening to demands for a fair trial.
Most Republicans now appear willing to go along with McConnell's plan to start the trial first then consider witnesses later, rather than upfront, as Democrats want.
Even if senators are able to vote to call new witnesses, it is not at all clear there would be majorities to subpoena Bolton or the others.
In 2018, Crow, an attorney and Army Ranger veteran who served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, found himself in one of the most contested congressional races in the country when the Democrat challenged five-term Republican and fellow veteran Mike Coffman in the Aurora-based 6th Congressional District, this decade’s perennial battleground seat.
Riding the blue wave that crashed over the state, Crow accomplished something a few Democrats had decided could be impossible, handing Coffman a defeat at the ballot box for the first time in 30 years.
Late last year, Crow joined six other first-term Democrats with military and national security backgrounds to write a Washington Post op-ed calling on Congress to determine whether Trump had withheld military aid from Ukraine as part of a campaign to pressure the country into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump’s leading political rivals. If he had, the lawmakers wrote, that would be an impeachable offense.
The next day, Pelosi, who had been keeping impeachment-eager Democrats at bay since the party took over the House majority in January, opened an inquiry that led to last year's vote to impeach a president for only the third time in the nation’s history.
As expected, Republicans have kept up the barrage aimed at Crow — with references to Pelosi thrown in at every opportunity — accusing the Democrat of diverting time and attention from Colorado’s needs to pursue the “baseless impeachment witch hunt."