Schiff and Nunes also will each have the power to ask an unlimited number of questions to witnesses, for up to 45 minutes at a time. During these periods, only they and their staff may participate. The rank-and-file lawmakers on the committee will also be given five minutes apiece to ask witnesses questions.
Democrats have telegraphed that they plan to zero in on allegations that Trump tried to extort the Ukrainians by withholding vital military aide as well as a White House meeting with the newly elected president. Look for Republicans to argue that the witnesses testifying don’t have direct evidence of any quid pro quo.
Trump and Republicans also have demanded that the president’s lawyers and White House counsel be permitted to participate, a request Democrats have rejected. However, Trump will be allowed to be represented when the Judiciary Committee drafts impeachment articles in the next few weeks.
The most important people you don’t know
If you’re watching impeachment hearings at home, you’ve probably heard of Schiff, Nunes and Jim Jordan. But it’s a cast of virtually anonymous characters who may be the most important figures in the entire process: the lawyers. That’s because the rules adopted by House Democrats empower committee staff to lead the questioning of witnesses in ways they are rarely permitted to on national TV.
Here’s a look at the six figures who will play the most critical roles in the impeachment hearings.
Schiff is expected to yield much of his time to Goldman, a former federal prosecutor who serves as the Intelligence Committee’s director of investigations. Goldman spent 10 years as a federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York.
Goldman was featured prominently in the deposition transcripts, and he’ll likely play a similarly outsize role during the public hearings.
Like Goldman, Noble also worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. He specialized in cybercrime and organized crime prosecutions.
Noble was brought on to the Intelligence Committee in March as a senior counsel and has been intimately involved in the private questioning of witnesses throughout the impeachment inquiry. In addition to Goldman, Schiff is likely to tap Noble for public questioning, too.
In moving Rep. Jim Jordan to the Intelligence Committee, Republicans also brought over his chief counsel for the Oversight Committee, Steve Castor. Sources familiar with GOP planning say Nunes will yield much of his time during the 45-minute round of questioning to Castor, who has endeared himself to GOP lawmakers for sharply grilling witnesses during the depositions.
If you didn’t already know it from the president’s tweets, Schiff is the public face of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry — and it’s a role he clearly relishes. A former federal prosecutor, Schiff is Public Enemy No. 1 for Trump and his GOP allies, who have accused him of everything from lying to treason.
Schiff is a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, making it nearly certain that the hearings will go exactly the way Pelosi wants them to.