The impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump went public this week as several key witnesses will appear before a House committee — and television cameras — to testify out in the open. And one of the key players in the impeachment drama playing out in Washington D.C., told a crowd in Jefferson last week that while the coming weeks would be difficult, the Republican Party would "get through it."
"This is going to be a turbulent time over the next few weeks," Rep. Doug Collins (9th District Ga.) told a meeting of the Jackson County Republican Party faithful on Nov. 9. "We will get through it and we'll move forward."
Why it matters: Collins is the ranking member (top Republican) on the House Judiciary Committee and one of President Trump's most vocal defenders. If articles of impeachment are drawn, those would come out of the Judiciary Committee. In that process, Collins will be the leading voice on the Judiciary Committee attempting to derail, or weaken, the articles of impeachment and to defend President Trump in the court of public opinion.
Collins told the Jackson County crowd of about 75 people that because of his strong voice on the Judiciary Committee during the past Mueller Investigation, the current move to impeach the president was yanked out of his committee and put into the intelligence committee to investigate.
"If you don't believe that we won (on Mueller) and that my committee took on Jerry Nadler (the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee) and the whole thing and won, look what happened in the last month when it came time to try something else — they completely took it out of my committee. They didn't want Doug Collins anymore. They had enough of that."
(Collins is also a leading candidate to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson who is retiring at the end of the year. Gov. Brian Kemp has not indicated who he will name to replace Isakson, but Collins is considered to be one of the frontrunners under consideration.)
Defends Trump: Like many Republicans, Collins defended the president by attacking the process Democrats have used to pursue their impeachment plans.
"The intel committee should never have had impeachment to start with," he said of the move by Democratic leadership in the House to bypass the Judiciary Committee in the early goings of impeachment investigations.
But Collins admitted that there was little he or other Republicans could do to stop the impeachment inquiry.
"You know the train's on the tracks; all they're trying to do is get to a vote to get to the floor for 218 votes," he said.
Collins also defended Trump on the substance of the allegations — that the president held up military aid to Ukraine in an effort to pressure that country's leaders to investigate Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
Although Trump and his allies at first denied there was any quid pro quo in the matter, that defense has shifted following testimony of diplomats and others that there had indeed been a quid pro quo in the works.
"I don't think there is anything wrong with it," Collins said of Trump's actions to probe corruption in Ukraine before giving them military aid that had been appropriated by Congress.
He defended the president by making a unique interpretation of what happened — that the Ukrainians were unaware of Trump's efforts to pressure them.
"They got the money, they did nothing for it and they didn't even know the conversations were going on while it was happening," Collins said. "Three big things. You can't have a quid pro quo if somebody doesn't even know that there was a quid or a pro going on."
Collins said the impeachment efforts had not hurt the president or his political standing.
"At the end of the day, they thought they would weaken him, but they've actually made him stronger."
Need for legal immigration: Collins also reiterated his position that the country needs more legal immigration for the economy. A number of large poultry businesses in the 9th District depend on immigrant labor.
"We've got to have good immigration in our country," Collins said. "If you don't believe it, look at our district. We need good, legal immigration, we need people to come work. We've got to have the jobs. We've got to have the labor. We just don't have it. You go to the poultry processing plants right here in this county, most of them run 50 to 100 people down each shift. They can't get people to work. We've got to have a legal process of immigration that helps our economy and that helps those who come here, but do it legally and a way that actually works for everyone. We're not doing that right now."
Voter registration: Collins also voiced an increasing concern of Republicans that Democrats are doing a better job at registering voters.
Collins said that 300,000 people have moved into Georgia since 2016.
"How many have you registered?" he asked.
The comments come amid a major push by Democrats in Georgia — specifically by former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams — to register more voters.
"Our party has got to do what it takes to win elections," he said citing the need for increased voter registration as one of the key factors.
Collins spirited 30-minute talk to the Republican faithful at times had the tone of a Southern Baptist revival. At one point, Collins mocked what he said are boring presentations by many Republicans and called on party loyalists to become more ardent in their work.
"Don't be boring, be passionate," he said.