According to three Republicans familiar with the talks but not authorized to comment publicly, McCarthy (R-Calif.) is considering placing Jordan on the panel, as well as others — such as Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), who have been involved in the depositions but do not sit on the Intelligence Committee.
The top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), has taken a relatively minor role in the closed-door proceedings, yielding the vast majority of the questioning to Jordan and his aides.
Matt Sparks, a McCarthy spokesman, confirmed comments that McCarthy made Tuesday to Politico indicating that he planned to “make adjustments to that committee accordingly, for a short period of time” during the impeachment proceedings. Sparks said Nunes would remain the top Republican in any scenario.
Any such move is likely to please Trump, who wants Jordan in particular “more involved” in his defense on Capitol Hill as one of his strong public defenders, according to a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly describe the president’s thinking.
Trump often calls Jordan a “warrior” and has sent handwritten notes to him praising his public comments.
The official said multiple lawmakers have raised the idea with Trump, who has agreed with the suggestion. Meadows, a close friend of Jordan, has repeatedly talked with Trump, and he and McCarthy traveled with the president Saturday to a mixed-martial-arts match in New York. Both frequently speak on the phone with the president.
While Jordan has been an internal rival of McCarthy inside the House, launching a speaker bid against him last summer, both men are staunch defenders of Trump who would be loath to let any personal animosity impede the defense of the president.
In a Fox News Channel interview Tuesday, Jordan said any shuffle would be McCarthy’s call. “I just want to help our team,” he said. “I want to help the country see the truth here, that President Trump didn’t do anything wrong and that what the Democrats are doing is partisan, it’s unfair, and frankly it’s ridiculous.”
Should McCarthy add Jordan or others to the Intelligence panel, it would be a signal that Nunes would continue to take a subordinate role in the impeachment proceedings. According to lawmakers present, as well as transcripts released by Democrats this week, Nunes has largely left the questioning to other Republicans.
One exception, discussed during the deposition of Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, centered on a secret dossier compiled by a British intelligence operative raising questions about whether Russia had compromised Trump — a document Nunes has long cast as part of a partisan smear operation. His queries did not bear fruit: Sondland told Nunes he had no direct knowledge of the dossier.
Much as Trump has pursued evidence of the unproven claim that Ukraine intervened against him in the 2016 election, so, too, has Nunes — making his role in the impeachment probe a delicate one. Nunes, for instance, spoke to a former diplomat who was circulating claims about Ukraine’s interference in the 2016 race that Ukrainian and U.S. officials describe as dubious and misleading, according to people familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly.
Andrii Telizhenko briefly served in Ukraine’s embassy in Washington and has met with other GOP lawmakers and staff, but Nunes is the most senior member of Congress he is known to have met. The Daily Beast first reported on the meeting Tuesday.
In an interview with The Washington Post last week, Telizhenko said that Nunes had told him to get in touch about his claims with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani. Telizhenko met with Giuliani on May 17 in New York, though it is unclear whether that meeting happened before or after he spoke to Nunes.
When asked for further details about their conversation this week, and after The Post made inquiries to Nunes and Republican lawmakers close to Nunes, Telizhenko retracted the claim that Nunes had told him to pursue the president’s lawyer.
Asked last week about his contacts with Telizhenko and any other Ukrainian officials about the 2016 election, Nunes replied, “I don’t talk to you for any issue, ever.” His office did not respond to requests for comment.
McCarthy, however, is standing firmly behind Nunes — a longtime political ally who represents a neighboring district in California’s Central Valley. “Devin’s patriotism and dogged search for the truth has led the intel committee effectively and honorably,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “History will look back kindly on him.”
Not only has Jordan been an outsize presence in the closed-door depositions, which have been conducted in a secure facility three floors underneath the Capitol, his staff — primarily counsel Steve Castor — has taken the lead in questioning witnesses for the Republican side. It was unclear Tuesday whether Castor or other aides would be shuffled to the Intelligence Committee alongside Jordan.
Meanwhile, Democrats participating in the depositions have largely ceded their questioning to Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and his investigations chief, attorney Daniel S. Goldman.
Under rules adopted last week, Nunes has the sole power to direct Republican questioning during the opening rounds of the public impeachment hearings, lasting up to 45 minutes each. Nunes is permitted to cede the time to Intelligence panel staff members but not to other lawmakers.
Adding Jordan or other members would require removing as many current members from the Intelligence Committee lineup. Speculation among Republicans has focused on two retiring members of the panel, Will Hurd and Rep. K. Michael Conaway, both Republicans of Texas.
Hurd has been critical of Trump, specifically his tweets about four Democratic minority congresswomen and his immigration policies.
The potential move on placing Jordan on the Intelligence panel was first reported Monday by CBS News.
Another crucial committee shuffle could be in the offing later this year: Rep. Douglas A. Collins (Ga.), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, is seeking the appointment of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to succeed retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who is set to step down at the end of the year for health reasons.
Under rules adopted last week, the Intelligence Committee would forward a report on any findings of impeachable conduct to the Judiciary Committee, which would then draft and vote on articles of impeachment. The Judiciary Committee has historically been the last stop before a House floor vote on impeachment.
Should Collins secure the appointment, it would set up a potential domino effect in the House Republican ranks. Jordan sought the top GOP post on Judiciary last year but lost out to Collins, taking the Oversight job as a consolation prize. Should he win the nod from fellow Republicans, that could open the Oversight post for Meadows, another Trump loyalist.
Kemp spokesman Cody Hall declined to outline the precise timing of the Senate appointment or discuss whether the governor would take the impeachment proceedings into consideration.
Dalton Bennett, Karoun Demirjian and Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report.