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As the eyes of the nation focus on impeachment, one of Connecticut’s own representatives, Democrat Jim Himes, is leading the charge.

Himes, the representative from Connecticut’s fourth district who was first elected in 2008, is the second-ranking Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee, just under Rep. Adam Schiff, D-NY. As his committee looks to investigate whether President Donald Trump looked to persuade Ukrainian leaders to investigate one of his domestic political rivals, Himes is playing a leading role in public hearings that began last week.

Himes initially announced his support for an impeachment inquiry in June, becoming the first in Connecticut’s federal delegation to do so. Now, all seven members of the delegation, five in the House and two in the Senate, support the investigation.

“The President has shown contempt for the truth, attacked our institutions, ignored the Constitution, refused Congressional oversight, refused to comply with subpoenas, ordered administration officials to refuse to testify, and asserted executive privilege of unprecedented scope,” Himes said in a press release when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the beginning of the inquiry in September. “If the allegations are true, his solicitation of the president of Ukraine to interfere in an American election by manufacturing dirt on the president’s political opponent is unethical and illegal coercion, regardless of whether he was holding financial support hostage.”

In June, Himes’ initial announcement in support of an impeachment inquiry sent shockwaves through Washington. Not only was Himes the second ranking member on the Intelligence Committee and the first member from Connecticut to come out in favor of impeachment investigations, but he had also been viewed as a moderate Democrat unlikely to make such a bold announcement.

At the time of his June announcement, there were fewer than 100 Democrats publicly committed to an impeachment inquiry, and most of the 100 were seen as members of the party’s progressive wing. Himes was one of the first high-profile moderate Democrats in favor of opening an investigation, and some political analysts believed his announcement was a turning point for the issue, pushing other moderates to strongly consider impeachment.

Now, Himes is continuing to break ground and draw attention for the role he’s playing in public hearings. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven, who has served Connecticut with Himes for over 10 years in Congress, told the News in a statement that Himes is an asset for Congress and the general public.

“Congressman Himes has been doing a great job on the Intelligence Committee throughout the impeachment inquiry. He asks witnesses insightful, probing questions and gets the facts for the public regarding President Trump’s withholding of Congressionally-approved military aid for his own personal and political aid.” DeLauro said. “And he is especially good at pushing back on Republican spin, which they have used to avoid engaging with the serious matters at hand.”

During Wednesday’s public hearing, which many analysts and media outlets described as explosive, Himes garnered much attention for his questioning of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Investigators allege that Sondland was directly involved in Trump’s efforts to convince Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. During the hearing, Himes questioned Sondland about a phone call he had with Trump in July, a day after Trump’s phone call with Zelensky that caused the impeachment inquiry.

Himes asked Sondland for more details about the call, specifically why it was placed and if it connected to Ukraine. Sondland was part of the web of people allegedly used by Trump to pressure Zelensky to open an investigation, so it’s possible that during this phone call — which took place in a public restaurant — Trump could have described his Ukraine plan to Sondland or asked for the ambassador’s assistance. Himes also probed Sondland about his opening testimony, and attempted to implicate Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the Ukraine investigation, specifically citing a moment when Pompeo told Sondland he had been doing a “great job.” Since then, more information has come out potentially further implicating Pompeo.

“The theme of your testimony today is that everybody knew and signed off, which is a little different from what we’ve heard. We’ve heard from others that your effort was irregular, shadow foreign policy, characterized as a drug deal,” Himes said to Sondland on Wednesday. “You have said the secretary of state was not only aware, but that he applauded it.”

Earlier this week, Himes made a passionate defense of Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs on the National Security Council and a decorated army officer who testified about concerns he had with Trump’s July 25 phone call. Vindman, a United States citizen who was born in Ukraine, has been criticized by defenders of the president as they questioned his loyalty to the United States.

Himes thanked Vindman for his service to the military and attacked his Republican colleagues during the hearing.

“Multiple right-wing conspiracy theorists, including Rudy Giuliani, have accused you of harboring loyalty towards Ukraine,” Himes said to Vindman on Tuesday. “It’s the kind of thing you say when you’re defending the indefensible.”

If the House votes to impeach President Trump the articles of impeachment will be sent to the Senate where they would require 60 votes to convict and remove the president.

 

Emmett Shell | emmett.shell@yale.edu