These California lawmakers will play a pivotal part in Trump's impeachment. Here's what they're thinking
The 41-member House Judiciary Committee will decide what articles of impeachment to bring against President Trump. The state with the most members is California: Trump’s biggest foil throughout his presidency.
Following a more than two-month impeachment investigation by the House Intelligence Committee, the Judiciary Committee now must determine why the evidence warrants impeachment.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) announced Thursday that articles of impeachment are warranted. Democrats say Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate one of his potential 2020 opponents and a debunked theory from the 2016 campaign. Meanwhile he withheld nearly $400 million in aid and a White House meeting the Ukrainian president desperately sought.
Pelosi’s announcement set off a whirlwind process that over the next two weeks will see the Judiciary Committee and the House wrestle with what to include — and exclude — in the articles of impeachment. They’ll also decide if more evidence needs to be considered.
This week, the committee heard from four legal experts who sought to define impeachment and how the framers of the Constitution intended it to be used. On Monday, the committee is expected to hear a summary of the evidence gathered during the Intelligence Committee’s two-month investigation.
By mid-week, the committee could decide on which articles to recommend to the House.
Here are the six Californians who get to decide, and what they’re looking for.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose)
Lofgren, a former immigration attorney, is the only Democratic member of the House with experience on both previous modern impeachment efforts. She was on the committee when Clinton was impeached and was a Capitol Hill staffer during Nixon’s impeachment investigation.
She dismissed the idea that Democrats are moving too quickly, a complaint held by some Republicans and their legal witness who testified Wednesday.
“What more are we going to get?” Lofgren asked. “The president has, in violation of the law I might add, refused to allow members of the administration to testify. That’s all we’re going to get.”
Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles)
The former California speaker of the Assembly is also the chairwoman of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus. She said the two hearings will lay the groundwork for the articles.
Hearing from the legal scholars gave her necessary historical context, she said.
“When you hear what ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ actually means, then you understand why the president has, in my opinion, absolutely committed high crimes and misdemeanors,” she said.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance)
Lieu, a colonel in the Air Force Reserve, is a graduate of the Georgetown Law Center in Washington and served in the Air Force JAG Corps. He said he expects the committee to avoid piling on articles of impeachment.
“I think the Judiciary Committee is going to be pretty disciplined. I think we understand it’s important to keep it simple for both the purposes of the Senate trial and also explaining what the president did to the American people,” Lieu said.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin)
Swalwell, a former county prosecutor, is the only Californian who serves on both the Intelligence Committee, which conducted the investigation, and the Judiciary Committee, which will craft the articles.
The Intelligence Committee heard from more than a dozen witnesses, both in closed-door depositions and in public hearings, something that the Judiciary Committee isn’t expected to repeat. “Anything that we can impart on our Judiciary colleagues about what we learned from that experience to make this a successful experience and presenting the facts to the American people is a good thing,” he said.
Rep. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana)
Correa, a former attorney, said he wants to look at where the Mueller report fits into the articles of impeachment and whether it should be included in some way. The report listed 10 possible instances of obstruction of justice, and some members have pushed to have it be included as an article, along with those focused on the Ukraine investigation.
“I want to make sure that all the evidence has been presented to us. And I want to see whether the Mueller report applies as the law is being presented to us. I think Mr. Mueller, decorated war veteran, a soldier, an FBI agent, a very honorable man, did a tremendous job on that report. And I think it should be part of the evidence that’s presented to us,” Correa said.
He said that his mind is not made up.
“What I’m looking for is the law, and how to apply the facts of the law, and then [I will] reach a conclusion,” Correa said.
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove)
The only California Republican on the Judiciary Committee, McClintock isn’t known as one of the high-profile Trump allies. Still, he describes the inquiry process so far as a sham, saying Trump, or his attorney, were not given the same right to participate in the Intelligence Committee depositions or hearings as previous presidents.
McClintock said he’ll be looking for whether Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) adequately allows the president to participate in the hearings.
“If he fails in doing that I think he’s going to make the president’s case all that more compelling when it gets over to the Senate,” McClintock said.