GOP mulls adding Trump defender Jordan to impeachment panel

WASHINGTON, Nov 6 (Reuters) - U.S. Republicans may add a leading ally of President Donald Trump to the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Jim Jordan, to strengthen their defenses as the impeachment investigation against the president goes public.

An aide to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy confirmed a report by CBS News that McCarthy was eyeing making temporary adjustments to the Republican membership of the Democratic-led intelligence panel, which will begin holding public impeachment hearings next week.

Jordan, an argumentative former assistant college wrestling coach and former leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, has proven himself adept at the public defense of Trump throughout the first part of the inquiry.

He has been a near constant attendee at closed-door depositions of witnesses being conducted by the House intelligence, oversight and foreign affairs committees, talking frequently to reporters afterward and defending the president on television as well.

Democrats, who have the majority in the House, are planning for the public hearings stage of the inquiry to be conducted only by the intelligence committee, which Jordan does not currently belong to. He is the top Republican on the oversight committee.

Jordan told reporters on Wednesday that it's "up to Leader McCarthy" whether he is added to the intelligence panel. "I'm going to help no matter what," he said.

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On "Fox & Friends" on Tuesday, Jordan said: "I want to help the country see the truth here, that President Trump didn't do anything wrong. And what the Democrats are doing is partisan, it's unfair and frankly, it's ridiculous."

Democrats in the House launched an impeachment investigation after an intelligence official made a whistleblower complaint about a July 25 telephone call in which Trump pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

Republican Trump has denied wrongdoing and accused Democrats of unfairly targeting him in hope of reversing his surprise victory in the 2016 presidential election.

Jordan's presence on the intelligence committee could greatly increase the drama at public hearings.

Jordan says the Democratic chairman of the intelligence panel, Representative Adam Schiff, should have to answer questions about his staff's early contacts with the whistleblower. (additional reporting by Richard Cowan) Editing by Ross Colvin and Bill Berkrot)