WASHINGTON — Jason Crow wasn’t an obvious pick to serve as a prosecutor in the Senate impeachment trial against President Donald Trump.
Crow, 40, is a newbie in the U.S. House, having served only the first year of his first term. He voted against U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last January. He was among the more reluctant House Democrats to call for impeachment proceedings against the president and Republicans are hoping to flip his seat in 2020.
But Pelosi’s move to appoint Crow as one of seven House prosecutors in the Senate impeachment trial against Trump could prove to be a political boon for both the House speaker and the freshman Democrat.
For Pelosi, adding Crow brings to the team the perspective of a swing-district freshman and a former U.S. Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It’s a tip of the Pelosi hat to say, ‘Look, we’re bringing all sorts of people into this,’” said Rick Ridder, a Colorado Democratic strategist.
Crow, Ridder added, “has obviously established himself as a highly credible, thoughtful and articulate individual member of Congress, and [Pelosi] wanted to have somebody with the expertise of the military to stress the national security” elements of Trump’s impeachment.
And while becoming a face of the impeachment trial could bring political risks for Crow in an election year, there are clear advantages, too. It’s tough for House freshmen to raise their profiles as they scramble to show off legislative accomplishments and gain political clout among their colleagues. Joining the six other impeachment managers will give Crow an instant boost in media coverage and name recognition.
It’s hard for freshmen to get noticed in their first term, said Kyle Saunders, a political science professor at Colorado State University. “He’s not AOC,” Saunders added, referring to high-profile House freshman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
Crow has been “playing the role of first-term congressperson, and so to get this kind of the tap, if you will, it is a little surprising but it is also indicative of upward trajectory,” Saunders added.
Getting the nod from Pelosi also signals to Crow’s constituents that “this is a man who is highly regarded among his colleagues,” Ridder said. And it “secures his brand as someone who can use his national security and military credibility on issues of major importance to Colorado as well as to the nation.”
Crow first made major headlines on the impeachment front when he co-authored an op-ed in September with other House freshmen and veterans of the military and national security agencies that called for an impeachment investigation.
After allegations surfaced that Trump pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival to influence the 2020 U.S. election, Crow and his colleagues wrote: “This flagrant disregard for the law cannot stand. To uphold and defend our Constitution, Congress must determine whether the president was indeed willing to use his power and withhold security assistance funds to persuade a foreign country to assist him in an upcoming election.”
Enhance statewide prospects?
Long-term, getting noticed as an impeachment manager could help Crow if he decides to run for higher office in Colorado.
“It may only enhance his visibility and actually could lead to statewide office, if that’s what he was shooting for,” Saunders said. “This is the kind of thing that could raise his profile enough if that was the path he wanted to pursue.”
Ian Silverii, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, said the move also reflects Crow’s image as a public servant. “He’s an Army ranger; he’s being called to serve.”
Crow soon will be making the case for Trump’s removal to the full U.S. Senate, including to the two members of Colorado’s delegation.
The managers will act as prosecutors in the Senate trial, presenting the House’s case for impeachment against the president. They’ll strive to convince two-thirds of the GOP-controlled Senate that Trump should be removed from office, although the chamber is widely expected to acquit the president.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) issued a statement Wednesday saying there’s “clear and growing evidence that President Trump abused the power of his office for personal, political gain and blocked Congress from obtaining access to witnesses and documents.” Bennet – who is continuing his run for president despite his failure to qualify for recent debates – called for a fair trial in the upper chamber and criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for his efforts to limit witnesses and evidence.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) has been reluctant to discuss the upcoming trial with reporters. After a GOP luncheon in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, he “zipped out a back door and headed for a little-used elevator, avoiding a throng of waiting reporters,” The New York Times reported. Asked about the impeachment trial, Gardner said, “We don’t have the articles yet, and I’m not going to speculate.”
Silverii noted a difference between how Crow and Gardner — who could both face tough reelection efforts later this year — are handling the politically thorny topic of impeachment.
“This is an exercise in contrast between two people who have similar political situations,” Silverii said. “Jason has to be taking this very seriously, but one of them is doing the right thing for the country.”
Crow’s opponents are certain to use his high-profile impeachment role against him.
He’s been named as a top target in the nation by the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2020, and he’s facing a challenge from Steve House, the former Colorado Republican Party chairman and CEO.
Crow’s 6th District seat was last held by Republican Mike Coffman, but Crow unseated him in 2018 by 11 points. The district also voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 by nearly a 10-point margin, The New York Times reported.
“It’s a district that has been moving to the Democrats demographically for a while,” said Saunders. It’s hard to know how safe that district is for Crow, but “it is safer than it looks,” he added.
Some political observers had viewed Crow’s fellow Colorado freshman, Rep. Joe Neguse, as a more likely contender to be an impeachment manager, given Neguse’s position on the House Judiciary Committee.
“It is a bit questionable as to why Neguse isn’t the manager, especially with regard to diversity concerns and [considering his] safe district and rising stardom,” Saunders said.
Given the role Neguse has already played, Ridder expects that Trump’s impeachment will raise the profiles of both of Colorado’s House freshmen.
“Joe Neguse got a tremendous amount of coverage for his engagement on the Judiciary Committee and that raised his profile dramatically,” Ridder said. “Coloradans like to see their members of Congress doing important stuff in Congress … This is important stuff. Whether you agree with it or not, it is important stuff.”