WASHINGTON -- The only Arkansan on the committee handling the impeachment inquiry has surrendered his seat temporarily, freeing up a spot for one of President Donald Trump's often-quoted defenders.
U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, a Republican from Jonesboro, will be replaced on the House Intelligence Committee by U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a law school graduate and the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee.
"We needed more bandwidth, individuals with greater expertise on the legal side," Crawford said in an interview Friday. "Jim Jordan is very well-versed, and he's been pretty integral so far on the Republican side."
On Tuesday, CBS News reported that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was looking to add Jordan to the intelligence committee, since it will be handling the coming impeachment hearings.
Crawford, who is a consistent Trump supporter, said he was willing to move aside so that a "pinch hitter" can step to the plate.
"We want to have the best people as possible in the best position to affect the best outcome," he said.
With the Oversight Committee assignment, Jordan was able to be on hand when impeachment inquiry witnesses were questioned in recent weeks. As an intelligence committee member, he'll be able to participate in next week's public hearings.
McCarthy announced the reassignment Friday, writing on Twitter: "@Jim_Jordan to the Intelligence Committee--which has now become the Impeachment Committee--where he will continue fighting for fairness and truth. @RepRickCrawford has been an exemplary member of the committee and will rejoin it when this Democrat charade is over."
Jordan has been a vigorous and highly visible advocate for the president, making the rounds this year on the Sunday morning news shows.
Since the impeachment inquiry was launched, Jordan has regularly attended depositions, challenging Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and questioning witnesses.
Crawford, on the other hand, has skipped much of the testimony, calling the proceeding a "dog and pony show" and a distraction.
"We have so many other things going on in the world that I need to be apprised of and to be working on. I don't have time to fool around with this sham impeachment nonsense, so I'm going about my business," he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette last month. "Not to be trite here, but we've got bigger fish to fry."
A former Army explosive ordnance disposal technician, Crawford was selected to serve on the House Intelligence Committee by then-House Speaker Paul Ryan in January 2017.
His aim, he said Friday, was to help "oversee the intelligence community and support our intelligence community overseas and deal with a very complex threat matrix and deal with national security issues."
"I didn't get involved in it for impeachment," he said.
Crawford says McCarthy told him that he would be reappointed to the intelligence committee "just as quick as we can resolve this issue."
The lawmaker doesn't know when that will be.
"If it takes two weeks or two months, that's fine," Crawford said. "I hope it doesn't take any longer than that."
It doesn't make sense for the intelligence committee to spearhead an impeachment proceeding, Crawford said.
The task, traditionally, is handled by the Judiciary Committee, Crawford added.
"It's unfortunate that our committee is dealing with this in the first place. ... It's unfortunate that we're dealing with this at all," he said. "It's particularly unfortunate that it has been directed to Adam Schiff to take the lead."
The chairman, Crawford said, is a "prolific liar."
"He just typically has displayed a willingness to lie, and I think that's why Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi has put him in the position he's in," Crawford said.
Asked to expand on the claim, Crawford accused Schiff of misleading people about initial communications between the House Intelligence Committee and the whistleblower. He also accused Schiff of leaking information to the media and then denying it.
Reached by email Friday, a spokesman for Schiff said he would have no comment on Crawford's attacks.
Asked whether Trump has done anything wrong regarding Ukraine, Crawford said: "I don't think the president has done anything that remotely rises to the level of impeachment."
"How he engages with foreign leaders, it is different than other presidents. It may be considered unconventional. And there are some folks that might think that they would handle things differently. But those people aren't president of the United States," Crawford said. "Just because you don't like the president of the United States and just because you don't like his style, does not necessarily mean that you need to go down the road of impeachment."
If Democrats are "weaponizing" impeachment, it sets a precedent for future presidents and future Congresses, Crawford added.
In this file photo Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, does a TV news interview at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, May 18, 2018.
A Section on 11/09/2019
Print Headline: Crawford yields his panel seat to Ohioan