WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi understands what an uphill battle it will be to convince the Republican-majority Senate to convict President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial.
But that doesn't mean she and House Democrats won't try.
Pelosi made her long-awaited decision on who will serve as House managers on Wednesday, allowing a peek into Democrats' strategy during a historic trial that will determine whether Trump will be removed from office.
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The seven lawmakers will serve as House prosecutors during the Senate trial and features Reps. Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, Hakeem Jeffries, Val Demings, Zoe Lofgren, Jason Crow and Sylvia Garcia. It's a diverse group that includes a mix of newer and more prominent names, some media savvy, some who can connect with a more moderate base, all of whom boast legal backgrounds that could play well to the buttoned-up Senate when the trial begins next week, experts and lawmakers say.
A small, diverse group
The group of managers is small but puts on display the caucus' diversity.
During Clinton's impeachment, there were 13 managers — all white men. Pelosi picked four men and three women of different ethnicities and backgrounds. They also represent red and blue states from across the country: California, New York, Colorado, Texas and Florida.
Democratic lawmakers for weeks have pointed to the diversity of the caucus being reflected in the group of managers that would prosecute Trump.
While the number of managers is smaller than Clinton's impeachment, seven managers is on par with the first presidential impeachment in U.S. history, that of President Andrew Johnson in 1868.
Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist who worked for former Sen. Ted Kennedy when the Massachusetts Democrat was a juror in the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999, said the number might have been a surprise to some who thought Pelosi would have chosen a deeper bench. But it's strategic, he says, and fits with the pattern she has established.
"To me, that suggests that she is going to keep down the same path she's been going: keeping arguments are tight as possible," he said. "They will be working to keep the message tightly focused and a smaller group helps you do that."
Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Harvard Law School graduate who taught Constitutional law for more than two decades at American University, said this team would likely be dividing up duties similar to any legal team.
"You can divide cases up chronologically. You can divide them up according to different offenses, and you can divide them up according to different witnesses so there are a lot of different ways of assigning work in a big and complicated case," the Maryland Democrat explained in an interview with USA TODAY.
An 'emphasis' on litigators
Six of the managers worked as either an attorney, prosecutor or judge. And Demings served as a police officer for 27 years. The plethora of legal experience will allow the crew to litigate the specific claims about the constitutional merits of the case, providing an argument before the Senate and the public on why Trump's conduct is grounds for impeachment.
"The emphasis is on litigators," Pelosi said of her managers. "The emphasis is on a comfort level in the courtroom. The emphasis is on making the strongest possible case."
Most of the managers are members of the House Judiciary Committee, which has historically handled impeachment and has been entrenched in the legal arguments for Trump's ouster and the history of past impeachments.
Two are members of the House Intelligence Committee, the panel that led the Ukraine investigation and is well-versed in the specifics of the case. Crow, is not a member of either committee.
Two freshmen in the mix
Lofgren, who was a member of Congress during Clinton's impeachment and worked as a staff member during Nixon's impeachment, has experience that could help guide the group of lawmakers, including the group's two freshmen lawmakers, Crow and Garcia.
Crow, who previously worked as an attorney and was an Army Ranger in the Middle East, co-authored an op-ed with fellow moderate Democrats with national security experience about Trump's conduct with Ukraine — a move that ultimately helped unite the caucus before the impeachment inquiry was launched. At 40, he is the youngest member of the team. He also comes from a district that flipped from red to blue in 2018, making him a key moderate that could speak to senators and Americans who are still undecided about Trump's impeachment.
Garcia served as a judge in Houston and comes from a solidly blue seat in Texas. She said being chosen by Pelosi was a "pleasant surprise."
"My role will be to present the case to the American people," she said, adding that the group would treat this case like any trial. "I know I’ll have a lot of homework," Garcia said with a smile.
Less partisan the better
The Senate is a different arena than the ultra-partisan House of Representatives.
There won't be a place for the vicious rants and partisan speeches in the Senate trial that many Americans saw in the House's impeachment inquiry, said Manley, the Democratic strategist.
"They've got to understand when they're sitting in the well of the House that it's a heck of a lot different than standing on the floor of the Senate," Manley said, noting that in the Senate, "neither side is gonna appreciate engaging in silly games or overheated rhetoric."
Pelosi's picks aren't known for the partisan antics that could run the risk of drawing scrutiny or turning off key Republican senators.
Manley said these House managers will have to walk a straight path, not engaging in any "clown show" in hopes of appealing to key Republican senators. He offered advice to the group: stick to the facts, don't get sucked into politics, don't go down rabbit holes, and stray away from excessive and inflammatory rhetoric.
Managers won't just be tasked with litigating the case before the Senate, they'll be aiming to persuade the American public — both with their performance during the trial and in the media.
Demings said in an interview last week she believed it was about more than just legal experience because house managers are going to be tasked to "tell a story."
"We're trying to convince an audience," she said.
Demings could likely be one of the managers frequently appearing on cable news, along with Jeffries, Schiff and Nadler— all members who are frequent guests on cable news shows.
Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J. who served in the House when Clinton was impeached and watched the Senate trial, said in an interview that media plays an integral role in the impeachment process.
"I think you need some people in there who are going to be spokespeople, who can easily talk to the media, who aren't going to get flustered," Pascrell said. He said part of the duty is to come off as honest to Republicans in the Senate as well as to the American public.
Above all, Pascrell said it will be important for the House managers to "speak on the side of openness and fairness." It's more important than "trying to get political points across," he said.
"People aren't dumb," he added. "They're paying attention to what we do."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump impeachment trial: House manager picks hint at Democrat strategy