Moderate Republicans went all in defending Trump at the impeachment hearings, which means Democrats have no chance to win them over

Susan Walsh/AP ImagesRep. Elise Stefanik of New York questioning former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch during House Intelligence Committee hearings on November 15.
  • Moderate Republican Reps. Elise Stefanik and Will Hurd have become some of the most influential GOP voices to reject both the process and the substance of the House impeachment inquiry.
  • Their opposition is a sign Democrats most likely have no chance of turning the process into a bipartisan referendum on President Donald Trump.
  • “An impeachable offence should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear, and unambiguous – and it’s not something to be rushed or taken lightly,” Hurd said.
  • Stefanik’s particularly outspoken anti-impeachment advocacy appears to be paying off. Trump and the Fox News host Sean Hannity have dubbed her the “new star” of the Republican Party.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Not more than two seconds after the House Intelligence Committee’s chairman, Adam Schiff, swore in the first two witnesses in the impeachment hearings last week, the proceedings were interrupted.

“Mr. Chairman, before we hear from the witnesses I have a parliamentary inquiry,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican.

The 35-year-old congresswoman then asked the California Democrat to explain why six witnesses requested by House Republicans hadn’t been subpoenaed. And she asked Schiff whether he planned to censor GOP committee members’ questions. Schiff, clearly disgruntled, told Stefanik to request additional witnesses after the hearing and said he would shut down any line of questioning that sought to identify the Ukraine whistleblower.

Stefanik’s interaction with Schiff set the tone for the next five days of public hearings, during which Republicans protested the process – which they have deemed unfair – and contested much of the substance of the witnesses’ testimony.

Stefanik and Rep. Will Hurd, a retiring Republican from a purple Texas border district, became some of the most moderate and influential GOP voices to reject both the process and the substance of the impeachment inquiry thus far.

Hurd concluded that Trump’s pressure campaign to compel Ukraine to announce investigations that would benefit the president politically was “inappropriate” and “undermined our national security and undercut Ukraine” but didn’t amount to an impeachable offence.

“An impeachable offence should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear, and unambiguous – and it’s not something to be rushed or taken lightly,” Hurd said on Thursday. “I’ve not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion.”

Stefanik repeatedly accused Democrats of leading an opaque, partisan process and drilled down on key GOP talking points, namely that Ukraine ultimately received security aid from the US – one of the things Trump is suspected of leveraging – and didn’t announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. She also repeatedly noted that the Trump administration had provided Ukraine with weapons of war that the Obama administration didn’t.

Hurd, 42, and Stefanik’s rejection of impeachment signals that Democrats probably have no chance of turning the process into a bipartisan referendum on the president.

Hurd’s position on impeachment is particularly notable because he’s retiring at the end of his term after winning reelection to a third term last year by a razor-thin margin. Hurd, a former CIA officer, is the only black House Republican and was critical of Trump’s approaches to immigration, the intelligence community, and race relations.

“It’s a sign that Republican members think this entire process has been deeply unfair and that Democrats haven’t made the case that it’s impeachable,” Matt Mackowiak, a Texas-based Republican strategist, told Insider. “If Hurd’s not going to be on board, it’s hard to see how any Republican member of the House is ultimately going to vote for impeachment.”

Mackowiack added that the two House members could have coordinated their approaches.

“Hurd and Stefanik are actually really, really close friends,” Mackowiak said. “So it’s entirely possible they made this calculation together.”

Both lawmakers have been critical of Trump and have diverged from him and their party on a range of issues, including Syria policy and border-wall funding. Their voting records are among the most moderate in their party.

“I have one of the top 10% most bipartisan records in this House and one of the most independent records,” Stefanik told The Washington Post. “But when it comes to constitutional matters, we should focus on the facts. We should not let this be a partisan attack the way Adam Schiff is conducting himself.”

FILE PHOTO: Representative Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York, asks questions of witnesses U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent during the first public hearings held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as part of the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., November 13, 2019.    Saul Loeb/Pool via REUTERSReuters

The Trumpian future of the GOP

Stefanik’s particularly outspoken anti-impeachment advocacy appears to be paying off.

The president announced on Twitter last Sunday that “a new Republican Star is born.” During a Friday-morning “Fox & Friends” interview, Trump said she was “fantastic during the hearings.”

The Fox News host Sean Hannity invited the congresswoman onto his prime-time show, which she used to ask Hannity’s millions of viewers for donations to her campaign. She even plugged her website.

“Democrats’ case for impeachment is crumbling,” she said. “Adam Schiff has been an abject failure.”

Stefanik raised $US500,000 in two hours, according to her campaign.

And she may find real use for that money and Trump’s support in her reelection campaign.

Stefanik’s upstate district voted for Democratic presidents for decades until it swung for Trump in 2016. And her Democratic opponent, Tedra Cobb, raised $US1 million over the past week. So, Stefanik, like many others in her position, is opting to embrace Trump.

Hurd recently announced he’s considering running for president in 2024. What’s clear to both Hurd and Stefanik is that Trump is maintaining a firm hold on their party and that any path forward in it involves adapting to him and his politics, to a certain extent.

“Politically, if you want to have a future in the Republican Party, you have to be against impeachment based on the facts as they are right now,” Mackowiak said. “At a time when 90% of the Republican voters support the president, you can’t be with the 10% that don’t.”

As a young woman with relatively moderate politics from a blue state, Stefanik is increasingly a rarity in the GOP’s ranks. She was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress when she won her seat at the age of 30 in 2014. (Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took the title when she was elected at 29 last year).

And she’s taken action to address what she’s called the “crisis level” of female Republican lawmakers, whose numbers have dropped from 23 to 13 in the House this year. She’s pledged to support female candidates in GOP primaries, which they struggle to win against more conservative male opponents.

And those efforts have pitted Stefanik against the nearly exclusively male leadership of her party. Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, called her plan to invest in female candidates early in primaries “a mistake.”

In the meantime, she’s adopting some of the president’s tactics.

Her opponent has a new Stefanik-approved nickname: “Taxin’ Tedra.”^tfw

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