Congress

Pelosi picks reserved team of impeachment managers who didn’t seek the role

Diversity factors considered, unlike manager choices for Clinton trial

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference to announce impeachment managers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi picked impeachment managers who mostly didn’t seek out the job, opting for a reserved team over more boisterous members who wanted to be involved.

Although Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, the lead manager, and Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler were picks who obviously wanted to serve, the other five managers — Zoe Lofgren, Hakeem Jeffries, Val B. Demings, Jason Crow and Sylvia R. Garcia — were not members who lobbied for the role. 

[House members eye high-profile impeachment assignment]

“I did not apply for it,” Lofgren, who was involved in the impeachment proceedings against Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton as a Judiciary Committee aide and member, respectively, told CQ Roll Call. 

Jeffries, the only impeachment manager Pelosi selected from her leadership team, went even further. 

“I have no expectation to serve as an impeachment manager,” the Democratic Caucus chairman told reporters Tuesday. “I have a day job.”

Garcia and Demings told reporters Wednesday after Pelosi announced her selections that they didn’t seek out the role but were asked. Crow appeared to be in a similar situation, although he declined to say, noting he doesn’t comment on private conversations with other members.

“It was a pleasant surprise,” Garcia said of learning late Tuesday she was one of Pelosi’s picks.

While Pelosi’s managers say they did not lobby for the job, that was not the case for Clinton’s trial. Six of the 13 managers freely admitted to The New York Times at the time that they were chosen because they expressed an interest in serving.

Then-Judiciary Chairman Henry J. Hyde of Illinois, the lead manager for the Clinton trial, chose “everybody on the committee that asked,” fellow manager James E. Rogan of California told USA Today.

“I couldn’t say no,” Hyde said, according to Rogan.

Pelosi’s reserved team

With the exception of Demings, who has been a vocal voice in pushing for Trump’s impeachment since the release of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report in April, the team of seven managers is a fairly reserved bunch. The other six members have toed the party line and kept to safe talking points when speaking about the impeachment process. 

Pelosi probably crafted the team that way, as she’s cast every step Democrats have taken in the impeachment process as serious and somber. 

While Nadler, Schiff, Jeffries and Demings have appeared on television countless times over the past several months presenting Democrats’ impeachment case, all seven managers have personalities that “fit a pattern that Speaker Pelosi kind of likes: to keep it reserved and somber,” said Judiciary member Steve Cohen of Tennessee.

In announcing the impeachment managers at a news conference Wednesday, Pelosi emphasized her choices’ experience in litigation and “comfort level in the courtroom.” Most are lawyers who’ve tried criminal or civil cases; Garcia served as a judge overseeing criminal cases, and Demings was a police chief who’s familiar with evidence-gathering and questioning witnesses. 

The manager team is mostly composed of members of the Judiciary Committee, which has sole jurisdiction over impeachment, with the exception of Schiff and Crow. Schiff and his Intelligence Committee, of which Demings is also a member, led the initial investigation in the impeachment inquiry with the Oversight and Foreign Affairs panels. 

Crow, a lawyer, does not serve on any of those four committees, but he and six other freshmen with national security backgrounds were the impetus for Pelosi deciding there was enough support in the caucus to launch the impeachment inquiry. 

Those not chosen 

Several members who said they would be interested in serving as managers or who Democratic members and aides said would be good picks were not chosen by Pelosi. Those include Judiciary members Sheila Jackson Lee, David Cicilline, Ted Lieu, Jamie Raskin and Pramila Jayapal, Intelligence member Jim Himes and Rep. Eric Swalwell, who serves on both panels. 

No one, however, questioned Pelosi’s choices or dared to express any serious disappointment. 

“I’m excited because we have diverse representation and, of course, representation from the state of Texas, and I will be an intimate part of the process going forward in terms of my advocacy and belief in the Constitution,” said Jackson Lee, who, like Garcia, is from Texas. 

Himes, who had said he was interested in serving as a manager, cracked a joke Wednesday when asked if he was disappointed he wasn’t picked. 

“Somehow I need to sell that Perry Mason box set of CDs that I’ve been watching every single night,” the Connecticut Democrat said, referring to the television legal drama from the late 1950s and early 1960s. “I just don’t know how I’m gonna do that.”

On a more serious note, Himes said, “Speaker Pelosi knows what she’s doing.”

Lieu said he never wrote a letter or did anything formal to lobby to be an impeachment manger but said he had been willing to serve if asked. He said he was an unlikely choice, however, because of his role as a co-chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee that leads the House majority’s messaging on TV and other media. 

“I couldn’t really do both,” he said. 

Cicilline, the DPCC chairman, said he was not interested in being a manager despite some colleagues floating his name. 

“I have an enormous amount of work awaiting me in my antitrust investigation and a bunch of other stuff,” said the Rhode Island Democrat, who chairs a Judiciary subcommittee that is looking into competition among digital technology companies. “I think the speaker made excellent choices.” 

Jayapal had nothing but praise for the manager team Pelosi assembled, applauding both their geographic and demographic diversity as well as their skills and background.

“Of course, we all jump at the opportunity to do things that are going to help our ‘For the People’ agenda and standing up for our Constitution, but there are lots of roles for people to play, and I’m really happy for the team that was selected and to continue to do what I’m doing,” the Washington Democrat said.

Diversity, now versus then

In 1998, the Republican majority chose 13 white, Christian men to present their case against Clinton — a fact that has not aged well two decades later as pundits and politicians draw historical comparisons.

Pelosi was much more deliberate, and that’s likely the main reason her set of managers contrasts so dramatically with those picked for Clinton’s trial.

For starters, Pelosi selected four men and three women. Four of the impeachment managers are white, two are black, and one is Hispanic. Nadler and Schiff are Jewish.

She also reflected the ideological diversity of her caucus in picking four Progressive Caucus members and three more moderate members of the New Democrat Coalition.  

“Diversity is our strength, unity is our power,” the speaker has often said in describing House Democrats.

Democrats sometimes struggle to project diverse geographical representation since a majority of the caucus members hail from coastal states. Pelosi likely picked Garcia from Texas and Crow from Colorado in part to bolster the team’s geographical diversity. 

The impeachment managers still include five coastal representatives, four of whom are from the blue states of California (Schiff and Lofgren) and New York (Nadler and Jeffries). Demings is from Florida.

The geographical representation contrasts sharply with the 1999 trial, in which 11 of the 13 Republican managers hailed from Southern or Midwestern states.

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