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GOP Leader Eyes Intel Committee Shake-Up To Boost President Trump's Defenders

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. (left), and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio (right), are two of the most vocal defenders of President Trump in the impeachment inquiry. They are at the top of the list for possible temporary appointments to the House Intelligence Committee, whose lineup could be changed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
J. Scott Applewhite

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is considering changing the lineup of the House Intelligence Committee to include some of President Trump's most vocal defenders in Congress.

"If Democrats are going to turn Intel into the impeachment committee, I am going to make adjustments to that committee accordingly, for a short period of time," McCarthy told Politico on Tuesday. A spokesman for McCarthy confirmed his comments to NPR.

At the top of the list for possible temporary appointments are Republican Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mark Meadows of North Carolina. The two lawmakers sit on the House Oversight Committee, which is taking part in the closed-door deposition phase of the investigation, but neither lawmaker sits on the House Intelligence Committee, which will lead upcoming public impeachment hearings.

A GOP aide confirmed that Jordan and Meadows are "top choices" for temporary slots.

Long before the impeachment inquiry, Jordan and Meadows carved out reputations as two of Trump's best allies and defenders in Congress. Most recently, they have been fixtures at the depositions, regularly attending the sessions even when the House is not in session, and aggressively defending Trump in the media. Meadows traveled to New York City with the president over the weekend to attend the Ultimate Fighting Championship at Madison Square Garden as his guest.

Allies of the two lawmakers cheered the idea on Twitter. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., praised them as the GOP's "most effective questioners" and said they have attended more deposition testimony than Republican members of the Intelligence Committee. "Shame on us for failing" Trump if they're not appointed, he tweeted. Gaetz also supports adding Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., to the panel.

McCarthy has almost sole discretion over which GOP members sit on the Intelligence Committee, although any decision to change the committee lineup would need to be ratified by the House Republican Conference. Any shake-up would likely be supported by the White House, effectively minimizing opposition to the decision.

However, it is fraught with internal politics. To add new Republicans to the Intelligence Committee, other Republicans would have to step aside. It is unclear how a potential shake-up would affect the current top Republican on the committee, Rep. Devin Nunes of California. A spokesman for Nunes did not respond to NPR's request for comment.

Committee ratios — the number of Democrats and Republicans on each House panel — are set by the majority, and Democrats are unlikely to give McCarthy a reprieve to this end. Currently, Democrats have 13 seats on the committee and Republicans have nine seats, so any new members added would require other Republicans to temporarily step aside to make room for them.

The House is in recess this week, but any changes to the Intelligence Committee could take effect as early as next week when members return.

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Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.
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