Republicans plot counterattack for impeachment hearings

And they will also try to keep the heat off Trump by attacking the Bidens and pushing other conspiracy theories about the elections.

“Leader [Kevin] McCarthy, ranking member [Devin] Nunes and Jim Jordan are taking preparation efforts to heightened levels with a work-around-the-clock mentality,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), one of Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, told POLITICO. “Depositions are being reviewed to show the inconsistencies from facts that we know exist.”

The GOP has struggled at times to defend Trump from a torrent of damning revelations in the Ukraine scandal, leading to some scattershot messaging throughout the conference. But Republicans have had weeks to sharpen and test their defense strategy and feel confident they’re ready for prime time.

And they could have some procedural tricks up their sleeves, too: Dozens of Republicans stormed one of the closed-door hearings to jam up the proceedings last month. And GOP members tried to force an Oversight Committee hearing to adjourn because it was taking place at the same time as one of the depositions.

The stakes couldn’t be higher for both parties. Democrats, for the first time publicly, will try to make their case to the American people that the president deserves to be removed from office. And Trump is leaning on the nine Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee to serve as his first-line of defense and act as a counterweight to Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

“They shouldn’t be having public hearings. This is a hoax,” Trump told reporters Friday on the White House lawn.

Yet even as Trump dismisses the impeachment hearings, Republicans know the president will be watching closely.

To bolster Trump’s public defense, House Minority Leader McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Friday temporarily assigned Rep. Jordan (R-Ohio) to the House Intelligence Committee, which has emerged as ground zero for impeachment and will be leading the televised hearings that kick off on Wednesday.

The first open impeachment hearing will feature testimony from William Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of State. Democrats are trying to show Trump conditioned military aid to Ukraine on investigations into his political rivals, including the Bidens.

“Jim Jordan has been on the front lines in the fight for fairness and truth,” McCarthy said in a statement. “His addition will ensure more accountability and transparency in this sham process.”

On Saturday, the GOP released their witness list, which includes the Ukraine whistleblower, Hunter Biden and his business partner. The wish list suggests Republicans plan to sow seeds of doubt about the origins of the impeachment probe and attack the Bidens as a way to justify Trump’s push for investigations from Ukraine

The GOP also requested several of the impeachment witnesses who were already deposed by House investigators, a request that is more likely to be approved.

“This inquiry is not, and will not serve, however, as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016 that the President pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit, or to facilitate the President’s effort to threaten, intimidate, and retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously raised the initial alarm,” Schiff wrote in a statement.

Republicans have been ramping up efforts to out the whistleblower in hopes of painting the person as politically motivated and undermining the whole complaint.

Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.