Will Hurd Picks a Side

If Democrats can’t persuade a moderate Republican like him to vote to impeach President Trump, they’re unlikely to win over any Republicans at all.

Andrew Harnik / AP

If there’s one Republican on the House Intelligence Committee who Democrats could reasonably hope would vote to impeach President Donald Trump, it’s Representative Will Hurd of Texas. But even he isn’t sold yet.

Hurd, a moderate former CIA analyst who announced this summer that he would not seek reelection next year, joined every other House Republican in voting against a package of rules for the impeachment inquiry last month. But he had been more open-minded than most of his colleagues and gave little indication of his leanings during the committee’s hearings over the past two weeks. His questions of witnesses were serious and not overtly partisan, neither adopting the dismissive tone of his fellow Republicans toward impeachment nor signaling the alarm that Democrats have at the revelations so far.

This afternoon, however, Hurd used his allotted five minutes to update everyone on his thinking. “An impeachable offense should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear, and unambiguous. And it’s not something to be rushed or taken lightly,” Hurd said. “I have not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion.”

The representative’s short speech was in the vein of a pox on both your houses. He said that during the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump’s mention of former Vice President Joe Biden and his request that Zelensky do him “a favor” by investigating him was “inappropriate, misguided foreign policy.”

But Hurd also criticized Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s handling of the impeachment hearings, calling it “a very partisan process.” He said he wanted to hear both from Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, and from Hunter Biden, the son of the former vice president whom Democrats have refused to subpoena. And Hurd said he wanted to hear from the original whistle-blower, whom Democrats initially said they would call but have chosen not to, apparently out of concern for the person’s safety and anonymity. While other Republicans have pushed to out the whistle-blower publicly, Hurd said the person could testify privately in a way that does not compromise his or her anonymity.

Hurd’s “wrong-but-not-impeachable” assessment of Trump’s conduct may be a preview of how Republicans in the Senate receive the House’s case for removal. There are still a few others in the broader House Republican conference, such as retiring Representative Francis Rooney of Florida, who could yet vote for impeachment. But despite hours of seemingly damaging testimony against Trump by current and former members of his administration, Hurd’s statement is the strongest signal yet of which way the impeachment winds are blowing. If Democrats can’t draw a Republican lawmaker like him to their side, they likely won’t be able to win over any at all.