PHOENIX — Sean Noble was 28 years old in 1998.
At the time, Noble served as the deputy chief of staff for Phoenix Republican congressman John Shadegg.
That year, just before the midterm elections, the Republican-held House of Representatives voted to commence impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton. He remembers it as a hectic time.
“We were crushed with phone calls, both the district office and the DC office, from both sides,” he said.
This past Tuesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would be moving forward with a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. The move was set off by a whistleblower complaint regarding a phone call Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which the complaint alleges that Trump inappropriately requested that the Ukraine investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden for his business dealings in the country. Since then, staffers on Capitol Hill have been operating at a fever pitch.
“It’s probably a little chaotic,” Noble said. “There’s going to a lot of incoming information to a congressional office. The staff is going to be fielding phone calls if it’s anything like it was during the Clinton impeachment.”
He cites the entry of MoveOn.org into the political space during that time as one of the largest contributing factors to the volume of calls that came into the capitol during that time. MoveOn.org is a group that was founded by progressive activists in 1998 with the original mission of combating the impeachment of Clinton. Despite this, Noble feels that the biggest player so far in this impeachment environment that congressional staffers will have to deal with is social media.
“Social media has inflamed the process to a level that is just unprecedented,” he said. “The news of impeachment was a day by day thing…today it’s minute by minute.”
He calls it “high speed chess.”
In her speech on Tuesday, Speaker Pelosi stated that she is directing “our six committees to proceed with their investigations under the umbrella of impeachment inquiry.” Arguably, the most important of these committees is the House Judiciary Committee since any articles of impeachment that will go to the floor of the House will go through that committee first. Noble pointed out that there is an important Arizona connection to consider.
“Arizona is going to be right in the mix of this as this moves forward,” he said. “You have three members of the judiciary committee from Arizona, which is pretty unprecedented for a state the size of Arizona.”
Arizona’s members on the judiciary committee are Democrat Greg Stanton and Republicans Andy Biggs and Debbie Lesko. The committee is made up of 41 members of the House: 24 Democrats and 17 Republicans.
Noble sees a lot of political similarities this time around to what occurred back in his days at the House.
“There was a drive by leadership, at the time with a very divisive speaker (Newt Gingrich)…I have to believe the Democrats know what they are doing but there is a high risk. The Republicans moved forward on impeachment and then ended up losing seats, which was the first time since 1932 that an incumbent President gained seats in his midterm.”
He does recognize one difference, though.
“If the Democrats in the House keep the focus on the national security component, then it probably creates more of an issue for the President.”