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Jerry Nadler, Jim Jordan and other lawmakers who could define the Mueller hearings

Posted at 8:37 PM, Jul 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-23 22:37:05-04

Former special counsel Robert Mueller, responsible for investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, is set to testify publicly at two separate hearings before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees.

Several dozen Democrats and Republicans will get their chance to grill the special counsel and throw Mueller off-message.

Here are key lawmakers to watch during the hearings:

Jerry Nadler

Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and holds the power to set the agenda on the panel that would oversee an impeachment inquiry if one were to be initiated.

Nadler, a key ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has said previously that he believes President Donald Trump obstructed justice. And earlier this year, the committee launched a wide-ranging investigation into “alleged obstruction of justice, public corruption, and other abuses of power by President Trump, his associates, and members of his administration.”

CNN has reported that Nadler has lobbied the speaker behind closed doors in an effort to win support for starting an inquiry but has not done so publicly. Pelosi, however, has so far resisted starting an inquiry, downplaying the possibility of impeachment since Democrats took over the majority while also distancing herself from calls to move forward with an inquiry.

Adam Schiff

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, another top Pelosi ally, is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Schiff has faced intense criticism from Republicans over comments he has made related to collusion, and congressional Republicans escalated their attacks after a summary of the Mueller report released by Attorney General William Barr said that the investigation did not establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s team and the Russian government.

Schiff has defended his remarks, saying in one interview after the summary had been released, “I’ve always said there was ample evidence of collusion in the public record. Whether Bob Mueller could prove the crime of conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt would be up to him and I would accept his judgment, and I do.”

Doug Collins

Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia is the top Republican member on the Judiciary Committee.

Collins has said that he wants Mueller to testify, and that he believes the special counsel will say, “there was no collusion” and “no obstruction.” But he has also accused Democrats on the committee of trying to effectively conduct an impeachment inquiry without actually saying that’s what they’re doing. “They want to appear as if they’re doing impeachment. They want to have an impeachment-like inquiry,” Collins said in May, adding, “but the problem is they can’t bring themselves to bring impeachment.”

As the leading Republican on the committee, Collins will have sway over whether Republicans make any procedural moves intended to impact the way Democrats want to conduct the hearing.

Collins has said that his members are prepared to address the topics they want to cover, but has argued the pressure was on the Democrats to deliver next week. “At this point I think the expectations are entirely on the Democrats,” Collins said. “The hype is on the Democrats to find out something new out of a well-read report.”

Jim Jordan

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio is a close ally of Trump on Capitol Hill — so watch for him to take on a high-profile role during the Mueller hearing before the Judiciary Committee.

Jordan has repeatedly raised questions about the handling of the investigation into Russian interference.

One subject that Jordan and other congressional Republicans could raise during the hearing are controversial text messages exchanged between former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page disparaging Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. Republicans have seized on the messages to argue that it demonstrates evidence of anti-Trump bias at the FBI.

Devin Nunes

Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California is the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, and served as the chairman of the committee when Republicans controlled the House majority.

While under Republican control, the committee led an investigation into Russian interference and the Republican majority found no evidence the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia. Nunes has staked out a reputation as a defender of the President, and was also at the center of a controversial memo released last year. The disputed memo was part of Republican efforts to discredit the FBI’s investigation into Trump and Russia, alleging that the investigation was infused with an anti-Trump bias under the Obama administration and supported with political opposition research. Democrats slammed the memo as inaccurate and misleading and intended to undermine the Mueller probe.

Matt Gaetz

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida is another top ally of the President in Congress. Gaetz made headlines — and sparked criticism — when he targeted former Trump fixer Michael Cohen ahead of his testimony before Congress earlier this year.

A day before Cohen appeared before Congress, Gaetz tweeted at him saying, “Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot.”

The statement sparked an immediate backlash, including from some House Democrats who suggested that it amounted to witness intimidation. The GOP lawmaker said that his message was not witness-tampering, but rather, “witness-testing,” but he later said that he had personally apologized to Cohen. The House Ethics Committee announced last month that it was investigating a complaint that Gaetz tried to threaten Cohen.

Louie Gohmert

Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas is another member of the House Judiciary Committee to keep an eye on.

Gohmert has shown in the past that he’s willing to ask questions of individuals testifying before Congress that some lawmakers view as over the line. Last year, for example, he unleashed a highly personal line of questioning during a hearing with Strzok, saying at one point, “I can’t help but wonder when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife’s eye and lie to her about Lisa Page?”

The comment, referencing an extramarital affair between Strzok and Page, prompted jeers from others on the committee, including one person who could be heard saying, “This is outrageous.”

Lucy McBath

Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia is a freshman member of Congress on the Judiciary Committee who represents a congressional district previously held by a Republican.

As a result, the way she approaches the Mueller hearing could provide insight into how some of the frontline Democratic freshmen members who helped win Democrats the majority and are expected to face tough re-election fights react to the former special counsel’s testimony.

McBath has not called for an impeachment inquiry. At a recent town hall, McBath said that she is “furious” about “the lack of accountability” from the Trump administration. But she said she did not enjoy the position the President’s actions put her in. “I don’t like having to do this,” said McBath. “I don’t want to have to say this about our President of the United States and the White House. I take no great joy in doing this.”

Will Hurd

Republican Rep. Will Hurd of Texas is a member of the House Intelligence Committee and a former CIA officer.

Hurd represents a swing district and has a reputation as a moderate Republican who is willing to cross party lines to criticize the President in certain instances.

The GOP lawmaker has said that he is “looking forward to talking” to Mueller “about disinformation and how we counter this into the future … he knows more about what the Russians tried to do in our elections. I’m going to try to get into some suggestions on how we prepare and deal with this in the future, is the line of questioning I’m likely to go down.”

Pramila Jayapal

Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington is one of the leading progressive Democratic voices in the House and serves as a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The congresswoman is a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Jayapal has said that she supports opening an impeachment inquiry, and her line of questioning and reaction to the hearing could provide insight into how the more progressive members of the House Democratic caucus may react to the testimony.

Steve Cohen

Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee could be a wild card during the hearing even if Democrats try to tightly control the script. The lawmaker is a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

When Attorney General William Barr did not appear for a Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this year, Cohen, in a theatrical display, brought a chicken figurine to the hearing room along with a bucket of fried chicken, labeling the attorney general “chicken Barr.”

Cohen has long been a proponent of impeachment and introduced articles of impeachment against Trump in November 2017.

The Tennessee Democrat told CNN that he was working with the committee, but also had his own questions. “There will be a question or two that will be Steve Cohen and not the team,” he said.

Val Demings, Eric Swalwell and John Ratcliffe

Democratic Reps. Val Demings of Florida and Eric Swalwell of California along with Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas are all in a unique position as members of both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee.

That means they could each get two bites at the apple when it comes to questioning the former special counsel, and they’ll be able to go into the second hearing with a first-hand understanding of how the first hearing unfolded.