On the final day of the opening argument to remove President Donald Trump from office, the lead impeachment manager, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, first turned to the little known Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado.
Crow took on a key Republican argument: after a couple of months, the aid was released and Ukraine never announced the investigation into Biden sought by Trump.
“This defense would be laughable if this issue wasn’t so serious,” Crow countered on Friday. “Real people, real lives are at stake. Every day, every hour matters. So no, the delay wasn’t meaningless. Just ask the Ukrainians sitting in trenches right now.”
This week, Crow, a freshman Congressman and military veteran, has taken a high-profile turn as one of seven House Democrats prosecuting the President, recounting his wartime experience in explaining why anyone should care that Trump held up aid to Ukraine in order to pressure its leader to damage his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Crow received a Bronze Star after leading a platoon of paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne Division during the invasion of Iraq and has relied upon his own history in making the case that withholding aid had deadly consequences.
For the previous three days, Crow had taken his case to the Republican-controlled Senate. On Tuesday, Crow said the issue — giving troops the equipment they need — is “personal to me,” adding that during summer 2003, he had to bolt on scavenged scrap metal onto the sides of his trucks to protect against roadside bombs.
On Wednesday, he cited a Los Angeles Times report that noted “many” of the thousands who fought Russia-backed separatists in east Ukraine, “were sent to the front line wearing sneakers and without flak jackets and helmets.”
And on Thursday, Crow took on Trump’s line that he did not want a “quid pro quo” with Ukraine, a couple days after a Washington Post editorial alleging that he did. Crow likened it to his experience as a parent, hearing a loud crash in the next room and hearing your child say, “I didn’t do it!” Some Democratic senators tittered, while Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, smiled.
A late convert on impeachment
In picking the prosecution, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was well aware of what Crow added to the team, even though he did not serve as an investigator during the impeachment inquiry like the other six House managers. Like her, Crow was a late convert to the cause.
After a career at the law firm of Holland and Hart, Crow announced a campaign in 2017 to represent a swing district including Aurora and some Denver suburbs. Alan Salazar, a longtime Democratic operative in the state, said that Crow had been a “go-to person for many years” on veterans issues who became a “dream candidate.” Crow beat a Democratic opponent in the primary, who knocked him in part for not calling for the impeachment of Trump. Crow then beat a Republican, incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman, by 11 points.
Jim Carpenter, another respected Colorado Democratic strategist, told CNN he thought at first Crow would lose to Coffman like other Democrats before him.
“I think other candidates had been more identified as more partisan people — and Jason just doesn’t project that,” said Carpenter. “He’s so earnest and committed and he understands that there’s different points of view.”
When Crow got to Congress, he joined the House Armed Services Committee and the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. He introduced a bill against “dark money” in politics. He didn’t support an investigation into the President until after then-special counsel Robert Mueller released his report and even then called impeachment “the last course of action.” In September, after the Ukraine scandal became public, he joined six other freshmen Democrats with national security backgrounds in a Washington Post op-ed calling for hearings. The next day, Pelosi announced the investigation.
It’s clear his fellow impeachment managers hold him in high regard. On Friday, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York claimed on the Senate floor that Trump abused his power and attacked the country’s character. But he said that the United States can “handle adversity” better than any other, saying that after September 11, “young men and women like Jason Crow were sent to Afghanistan to fight the terrorists there so we didn’t have to fight the terrorists here.”
Facing skeptical Republicans
But Crow’s job is not to impress Democrats. He has to win over 20 Republican senators who would have to join his party in order to remove Trump from office, a highly unlikely proposition. This week, as the prosecution pushed for access to additional documents and first-hand witnesses who have not testified, Crow said, “This, ladies and gentlemen, is a national disgrace — and only the people in this room can fix it.” Sen. Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, rolled his eyes. On Saturday, Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal attorney, thanked Crow for his service before picking apart Crow’s assertion that Trump was “only interested in Ukraine aid” by citing the President’s wish to cut aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Other Republican senators have also been frustrated that Crow and Democrats have been touting the importance of military aid that President Barack Obama did not provide.
“It took President Trump to start the aid. That was somehow missed in his presentation,” said Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who added “there are no sneakers” on the line of separation between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatist rebels. “I just think it was ironic that we’re the ones — Republicans — who actually had that assistance going there finally.”
On one major point — why did Trump hold up the aid to Ukraine? — Crow has failed to persuade Republicans. He said this week that “there is no evidence” to support the GOP claim that Trump withheld the aid to motivate other countries to provide it to Ukraine. Crow said that Trump only lifted his hold because he got caught, and when he did, it was without any changes to the European’s contributions. On Thursday, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said Trump “probably had a mixed motive.”
“It’s not exactly plausible to say that the only reason he withheld the aid was because he wanted this Burisma matter looked into, as a matter of corruption,” said Cornyn, referring to the Ukrainian energy company Biden’s son Hunter worked for. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden in Ukraine. “Both the Obama administration and the Trump administration, I think, were concerned about burden sharing with our European allies.”
The White House defense team argued on Saturday that it was clear that Trump wanted Europe to increase its aid to Ukraine, as he criticized the continent’s contributions on a pivotal July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky.
Republicans say that his role as an impeachment manager will hurt his political future. National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Bob Salera called Crow a “partisan hack who is more obsessed with baselessly removing President Trump from office than delivering on promises he made to his constituents.”
But some of his supporters believe otherwise, noting the changing demographics of suburban Colorado and Trump’s unpopularity in the state.
Morgan Carroll, the chair of the Colorado Democratic Party, told CNN that while she’s sure there’s a risk to accepting the role, it won’t backfire due to his connection with his constituents.
“I think what makes Jason Crow a leader is he’s not looking for what’s easy, he’s looking for what’s right,” said Carroll. “I do think it would probably be easier to just duck, but that’s not who he is.”
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