WASHINGTON — It’s known as “the theater committee” for its high profile, high-drama role investigating President Trump’s White House. And now, five of the fieriest Democratic freshmen in the House are players on that stage.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Katie Hill, Rashida Tlaib and others now have seats on the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee – a sign that Democratic leaders want their social media savvy and star power front and center of investigations into the Trump administration.

In return, the new members get a platform on which to polish their good-government bona fides. And the bet among senior Democrats is that more experienced committee members will help harness the newcomers’ energy, fame and know-how as the blandly-named panel turns its spotlight on the White House ahead of the 2020 elections.

“I consider myself to be a little bit of a justice and truth-teller,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., referring to her background as a prosecutor. “I think I’m in good company.”

On the mission, yes. But the newcomers’ styles will depend in part on how solidly they won their districts in the November elections.

“Mine is going to be a very fact-based approach,” said Hill, a liaison to Democratic leaders who will serve as vice chairman and flipped a Republican stronghold in California. “I am not going to go in there with a set agenda as much as seeking the truth.”

Added Rep. Harley Rouda, a former Republican who also represents a swing California district: “We have an obligation as members of Congress to provide appropriate oversight regardless of whether it’s Republicans or Democrats or otherwise,” he said. Rouda called himself “somewhat centrist, and I’m going to carry that into that committee as well.”

It’s an apt home for the outspoken new members. Real-time drama – on matters ranging from former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Hurricane Katrina and steroids in sports – was the panel’s trademark long before Trump and the Democratic freshmen were elected.

“You walk in here, into the back room, you muster your righteous indignation and you step out on the stage and ask somebody: ‘How could you? What were you thinking? When did you first know?”‘ said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., a committee member and outspoken conservative who was appointed to the panel when Barack Obama was president. “You can make a grandma feel bad about making cookies for her grandkids.”

Though theatrical, the committee has real power to “at any time conduct investigations of any matter,” according to its charter, using as tools subpoenas and the fact that lying to Congress is a crime. And the new chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., is promising serious probes that could have consequences for Trump and administration officials who saw relatively little oversight under the Republican-led House. Cummings has promised to look at conflicts of interest within the administration and is one of several chairmen who will lead investigations into Trump’s ties to Russia.

The committee also is where Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, was scheduled to testify next month on Trump, his links to Russia and payments to buy the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels. Last week he delayed his appearance on the advice of his legal team, citing ongoing cooperation in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and threats against his family.

For now, Cummings is repeating two guiding words to keep the newcomers’ enthusiasm productive: “efficiency” and “effectiveness.”

“They are very articulate, they are very sharp,” Cummings said. “And I’m sure that working very closely with the leadership of our committee, that they will be disciplined about what they put out to the media.”

His comments reflect an acute awareness among senior Democrats that this group eschews a script and likes to improvise. Tlaib’s vow on Trump to “impeach the mother—er,” on Day 1 of the new Congress ran afoul of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s dictum to not speak of impeachment in any serious way at least until special counsel Mueller reports on his Russia probe. Tlaib apologized for the distraction and, Cummings said, “realized that those comments do not lend themselves to my two major goals: being effective and efficient.”

House Democratic leaders opted to leverage the social media prowess and outspokenness of all five freshmen by giving them the platform of the oversight panel.

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