Impeachment trial elevates U.S. Rep. Crow's profile in election year

Prosecuting president thrusts 6th District Democrat into nationwide spotlight

Ellis Arnold
earnold@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 2/7/20

The seven U.S. House Democrats who made the case for President Donald Trump's removal from office during his Senate trial included well-known party leaders and members of committees that led the …

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Impeachment trial elevates U.S. Rep. Crow's profile in election year

Prosecuting president thrusts 6th District Democrat into nationwide spotlight

Posted

The seven U.S. House Democrats who made the case for President Donald Trump's removal from office during his Senate trial included well-known party leaders and members of committees that led the impeachment inquiry.

And, unexpectedly, Jason Crow.

The freshman Democrat from Aurora made for something of an anomaly on the team that acted as prosecutors against the president in the Senate impeachment trial, which weighed whether the House's impeachment of Trump — akin to an indictment or formal charging of a crime — would result in the president's removal from office.

Aside from one lone Republican voice in favor of removal — Utah Sen. Mitt Romney — the Senate voted along party lines Feb. 5 to acquit the president, or find him “not guilty,” on both charges: abusing his power in pressuring Ukraine to investigate a presidential election rival, and obstructing Congress' probe into that matter.

"I did my duty, both constitutional and to uphold my oath and represent my country, and again, to stand up and make sure we’re maintaining the rule of law and checks and balances, and pushing back on abuses of power," Crow said in a Feb. 7 phone call.

Crow, a former Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, brought “a certain gravitas” to the Democrats' arguments with his military experience, said Floyd Ciruli, an independent pollster and well-known political analyst in the Denver area.

One angle Crow lent the Democrats was to describe in dire terms Trump's withholding of previously approved military aid from Ukraine around the same time that he asked that country to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who is among the front-runners in the Democratic nomination for this year's presidential race, and his son.

“I'm kind of cynical — I don't think that anything the House managers did was going to sway any Republicans,” Ciruli said. But if anything stood a chance, focusing on military arguments was the ticket, he added.

Although Crow's performance didn't move the needle among Senate Republicans, it established the lawyer as an “up-and-coming” Democrat, Ciruli said.

But the results aren't likely to be positive across the board in the 6th Congressional District, a sprawling, backward C-shaped slice of the south, east and north Denver suburbs that includes conservative strongholds such as Highlands Ranch, decidedly blue Aurora, and rural stretches near Brighton and farther east, among other areas.

Steve House of Brighton — a former Colorado Republican Party chair and Crow's top opponent in this year's election — argued that some thought Crow reflected poorly on the military.

“Vets said they don't know why he questioned the commander-in-chief,” House said.

Crow said that, by and large, that isn't the response he's hearing and that he's received positive feedback from veterans, both from those who are friends of his and who are from his district.

Congress is "not a branch of the White House," Crow said. "We are not rubber stamps of the commander-in-chief — a very critical role is for us to hold the president accountable."

Veterans speak out

For Brad Sindt, an Aurora resident and member of a local veterans' organization, the impeachment process gave him a worse opinion about the Democratic Party in general.

Regarding Trump's alleged hold-up of aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, Sindt said: “Some of it might be lies or not true, so I'm just going to say you know … I wasn't there — I didn't hear it.”

Sindt, who voted for Trump in 2016 and plans to vote for him again, said he doesn't care much for Crow, whom he didn't support in 2018.

Donny O'Connor, a Centennial resident who served in Vietnam, wasn't familiar with Crow relating his own military experience to the situation surrounding Ukrainian aid, but he waxed skeptical of the argumentative strategy.

O'Connor, 74, believes Trump wanted to make people aware of potential improprieties surrounding Biden's son, who served on the board of an energy company in Ukraine. O'Connor doesn't think the president wanted to use information against anyone.

And “if it's true that he withheld some money, I'm not sure he withheld it long enough to make any difference,” O'Connor said.

In Highlands Ranch, Vietnam veteran Ray Ross said he supports Crow and that tying in his own military experience in discussing Ukraine “really struck home with me.”

Ross, 71, said he has had conversations with some who believe the president pushed for investigations out of concern for corruption in Ukraine. He disagrees and said Trump violated the law by delaying the funding.

“I worked in the government my whole adult life, and no one would ever survive — they'd be booted out — for doing the things he's doing” in terms of defying standard procedures, said Ross, who said he worked at the county, state and federal levels.

During a Jan. 21 debate on the ground rules of the impeachment trial, Crow invoked his military service.

“Although some years have passed since that time, there are still some memories that are seared in my brain. One of those memories was scavenging scrap metal on the streets of Baghdad in the summer of 2003 that we had to bolt onto the side of our trucks because we had no armor to protect us against roadside bombs,” Crow said. “So when we talk about troops not getting the equipment they need when they need it, it's personal to me.”

As House, the Brighton Republican, gears up in hopes of running for the 6th District seat this fall, he argues that a single package of aid being held up temporarily isn't a problem.

“I thought it was really out of context,” House said.

Ross felt the impeachment process was necessary and was proud of Crow, he said.

Ciruli, the pollster, noted that Crow garnered much media coverage. “He was seen,” Ciruli said. “It's both good for him and, in a way, good for Colorado.”

Wait and see

Crow's prosecution of the president is likely to draw the Democrat more negative attention, Ciruli said.

But “the tradeoff to him was more than worth it,” said Ciruli, adding that the Republican base in Crow's district has diminished in recent years. And “the tradeoff is worth it, frankly, with unaffiliateds.”

Although approval of Trump among voters in Crow's district is likely “upside-down” — lower than Trump's disapproval — the president has seen a recent uptick in support nationally, said Dick Wadhams, political strategist and a former chair of the Colorado Republican Party.

Wadhams argued the impeachment process “backfired on the Democrats” but also pointed to the health of the economy as factors that explain Trump's bump.

“I think it's conceivable that Trump is in a better position in the 6th Congressional District than he was in 2018, but we have no numbers to show that yet,” Wadhams said.

House generally doesn't like to campaign negatively and said he's met Crow and had civil conversations. He wants to keep focus on Trump's economy, feeling it's a winning strategy with voters.

“I want to focus on the economic possibilities,” House said.

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