The White House announced Monday that it will add several House Republicans to President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment team in what appear to be largely ceremonial roles following an internal debate over whether they should be included.
The House members — Reps. Doug Collins of Georgia, Mike Johnson of Louisiana, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Debbie Lesko of Arizona, Mark Meadows of North Carolina, John Ratcliffe of Texas, Elise Stefanik of New York and Lee Zeldin of New York — are not expected to speak on the Senate floor, a source familiar with the legal team’s plans told CNN.
Instead, the group will serve as outside advisers and surrogates, a separate source said. One option that had been discussed last week for any House members put on the team was advising Senate Republicans on questions to ask Chief Justice John Roberts during that 16-hour phase of the trial.
A number of the House members have already been meeting regularly with Trump’s lawyers to help them prepare for the floor arguments.
The addition of House members in a limited capacity follows a struggle among White House aides and top Senate Republicans over the benefits and drawbacks of the move.
Trump — who has long wanted his trial to feature a theatrical defense aimed at winning him vindication — has pushed for his fiercest protectors to be included because he believes they will be the best at arguing against the two charges against him. Top Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, however, had been advising him that bringing on GOP House members could frustrate efforts to keep Republicans as unified as possible during the trial.
“Repeating the House sideshow in the Senate will turn off the very members the President needs for a unified acquittal,” said one Senate Republican aide.
The announcement comes just a day before the Senate trial starts in earnest when Republicans and Democrats are expected to battle over a resolution setting the rules for the trial and shortly after start opening arguments.
McConnell will propose a timeline for the trial that would break from the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, according to a four-page organizing resolution obtained by CNN. He plans to give House impeachment managers and Trump’s legal team each 24 hours divided over two days for their opening arguments, according to the resolution.
The move indicates that Senate Republicans are pushing to finish the trial as quickly as possible — ahead of the President’s February 4 State of the Union address.