Partisan Lawyers Seize Leading Roles in Impeachment Hearings

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers in the House are using the public impeachment hearings to highlight their respective views of President Trump’s unusual foreign policy with Ukraine. But two Intelligence Committee lawyers are asking many of the questions.

According to special House rules, the chairman of the House Intelligence committee, Adam B. Schiff, and the top Republican on the panel, Devin Nunes, both from California, can delegate some or all of their time to staff lawyers to question witnesses about the interactions of Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

The lawyers are not elected officials but have seized attention by asking questions about the investigations Mr. Trump and his private lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani wanted Ukraine to pursue into Mr. Trump’s political rivals, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Here is what we know about the lawyers, Daniel S. Goldman and Stephen R. Castor.

The Democrats’ lawyer, Daniel S. Goldman, joined the House Intelligence Committee earlier this year, bringing expertise in prosecuting criminals and mobsters as a former assistant United States attorney in New York. Mr. Goldman, a 43-year-old father of five, is also well-versed in talking about investigations into President Trump as a paid legal expert on MSNBC. Republicans who have spent dozens of hours with Mr. Goldman sequestered in the Intelligence Committee’s basement offices conceded they had come to have a grudging respect for his work.

Mr. Goldman has been open about his low opinion of Mr. Trump. In a Twitter post last December, Mr. Goldman compared Mr. Trump to mob bosses he had prosecuted, saying “Mob bosses are far smarter and way more savvy and discrete than Trump.”

That same month, he wrote that the president, “doesn’t care about the country, just himself. Shameful.” He used the hashtag #TrumpResign and LOL-ed in response to one of Mr. Trump’s many “Witch Hunt!” tweets.

A few months later, Mr. Goldman joined the Intelligence Committee at a time when Mr. Schiff was focused on the special counsel investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties with Russia in 2016. Much of Capitol Hill was fixated on the inquiry, as was Mr. Trump.

When Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, released his report without recommending any criminal charges against Mr. Trump, the Democrats’ momentum to investigate the president deflated a bit. But that changed in August, when an anonymous C.I.A. officer filed a whistle-blower complaint. Once Mr. Schiff learned about the complaint’s existence, he pushed the Trump administration to share it with Congress, at which point Mr. Goldman’s job got a lot more interesting.

In questioning key witnesses in private depositions and in public, Mr. Goldman brings the staccato cadence of a seasoned prosecutor, often asking witnesses questions that would elicit “yes” or “no” responses. His years in the high profile United States attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York and his time on MSNBC prepared him for the spotlight of the televised impeachment proceedings.

During one of the public hearings last week, Mr. Goldman asked the top American in Ukraine — William B. Taylor Jr. — about the July 25 phone call and alternate Ukraine foreign policy channel at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

“Ambassador Taylor, in your decades of military service and diplomatic service representing the United States around the world, have you ever seen another example of foreign aid conditioned on the personal or political interests of the President of the United States?” Mr. Goldman asked.

Mr. Taylor responded: “No, Mr. Goldman, I have not.”

Stephen R. Castor, according to a longtime Republican oversight staff member who was not authorized to speak publicly, cares about four things in life: His family, his dogs, the Phillies and congressional oversight.

Mr. Castor, 46 and a father of two, once said he knew he wanted to be a congressional staffer as early as law school. Aside from a few years in the private sector working in law firms in Philadelphia and Washington, Mr. Castor has lived his dream.

Since 2005, Mr. Castor has worked for Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where he questioned witnesses about the federal response to Hurricane Katrina and the Obama-era botched gun trafficking investigation called Operation Fast and Furious. Mr. Castor also questioned witnesses in the House investigation into the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead. That investigation, led by Republicans and especially fixated on Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, was one of the longest and most bitterly partisan inquiries in history.

In 2013, Mr. Castor explained that committee investigators like him are responsible for persuading whistle-blowers to come forward.

“We’re in the storytelling business, the business of putting the pieces together,” Mr. Castor said in an interview with Bloomberg during the House Oversight Committee’s investigation into political bias in the Internal Revenue Service during the Obama administration.

“The purpose of an oversight investigation is not to simply try and make the president look bad,” Mr. Castor said at the time. “This administration is uncomfortable with oversight.”

Six years later, Mr. Castor, in closed-door testimonies, has stuck to the Republican strategy of pushing back against witness accounts and credibility, and hammering the Democrats about the process of the proceedings. When he first questioned the top American in Ukraine, Mr. Taylor, Mr. Castor lamented that Republicans were often in the dark about, for instance, subpoenas.

“And that leads to mistrust,” Mr. Castor said.

When Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio and a fierce defender of the president, joined the intelligence committee last week so that he could infuse more moxie into the public portion of the inquiry, Mr. Castor came with him to question many of the same witnesses in a public forum.

On Friday, Mr. Castor questioned Mr. Taylor about the 2016 presidential campaign.

“The run-up to the 2016 election, there’s many facts that remain unresolved, agreed?” Mr. Castor asked Mr. Taylor.

Mr. Taylor responded, “I’m sorry, what’s the question?”

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting, and Kitty Bennett contributed research.


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