Rep. Adam Schiff: Unlikely Hero
For a majority of Americans, Adam Schiff is not a household name. The representative for California’s 28th Congressional District, with a reputation as a moderate, has been known in Democratic circles at home and in Washington. But his national profile increased significantly on Monday, March 20, 2017. Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, moved front and center as he spoke eloquently at the hearing investigating Russian interference with our presidential election.
The mounting evidence of potential collusion between the presidential campaign of Donald Trump and the Russian government seemed innocuous to the Republicans at the hearing. As each questioned FBI Director James Comey and Director of National Security Agency Mike Rogers, the questions seemed to meander around the topic, deliberately missing the target. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) ranted about finding the source of leaks to the media and prosecuting those that revealed information, while ignoring the elephant in the room.
For anyone watching the hearing it seemed to take on an air of farce, guided more by Republicans attempting to get this volatile subject swept under the rug. You didn’t have to be a political aficionado to recognize that Republicans were not just avoiding the possible cooperation between the Russian government and the Trump “cabal,” but they were trying to change the subject. Schiff’s Republican counterpart, Devin Nunes (R-CA), seemed to put on a “good face,” but as we found out later this was not going to work over the long haul.
Out of the Shadows, a Hero Appears
As voices at the hearing droned on and little information was forthcoming, FBI Director Comey continued to respond with pat comments and minimal details. The tide turned when Schiff, quietly and calmly, stated that his presentation was simply drawing on public reports, though not all of them had been confirmed. Then — in a flash that wasn’t just a typical political chess move, but seemed to be a historic moment — Schiff launched into his dialogue.
As ranking member, Schiff brought forth a litany of evidence that he said, “should concern us and we believe should concern all Americans.” Speaking to Comey, Schiff began connecting the dots. He covered, step by step:
This is just a partial list of Schiff’s brilliant presentation, which he ended by summarizing that all this information “could be” a “coincidence.” The volume of data repeatedly points to still hidden truths about Trump, his associates, and Russian representatives.
Schiff Becomes the Hero
There is no denying that after Schiff’s detailed presentation Republicans were left with little or nothing to say. Their lame attempts to pursue a conspiracy theory that RussiaGate had been made up by Democrats crumbled. This, of course, was the hearing’s entrée for Republicans: the claim by the current president that his predecessor, President Obama, had instituted wiretaps against him (though Trump produced no evidence to backup his claim).
Schiff took the opportunity to bring forward substantial “circumstantial evidence” of collusion meant to harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Comey confirmed the allegations by saying, “All I can tell you is what we’re investigating, which includes an investigation into whether there was coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians.” He added that there was “no way to give a timetable” for when the investigation would conclude.
FBI Director James Comey confirmed investigation into potential collusion between Russia & Trump camp #ComeyHearing https://t.co/xjvJLsG8p0
In a singular moment, Schiff invoked the thing that Republicans had been trying to deny and avoid: the unverified dossier written by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent, which alleged collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian nationals.
Schiff Continues to Play His Role
Schiff has quietly been playing an important role on the topic of interference and collusion. The New Yorker reported:
Despite his understated reputation, Schiff has gained a quiet respect among foreign-policy liberals and reporters for his nuanced views on surveillance, war powers, and press freedoms. He championed reform of the Patriot Act after the revelations by Edward Snowden about the N.S.A.’s bulk collection of metadata. He pushed for a new, more tailored war authorization against Al Qaeda to replace the overly expansive one put in place after 9/11. And he has been outspoken on free-press issues, both in the United States and abroad.
To say that this isn’t Schiff’s “first rodeo” is an understatement. He’s taken the subject of potential Russian interference in our democratic electoral process very seriously. While stating the obvious should be common practice in Washington, DC, the elevation Trump’s brand of spewing misinformation, redirection, and spin gives proof to how rare it can be. The Republicans want to ignore and deny the Russian interference issue, while Democrats are trying to get their heads wrapped around the insanity of it and determine a plan of action. Through a steady stream of idiocy from the White House, Schiff appears to bring focus and clarity.
Schiff Is the Catalyst
The direction in which Schiff took the committee opened the doors to FBI Director Comey admitting that an on-going investigation into the potential relationships between Trump, his campaign, and the Russians was underway.
Mainstream media seized upon this information. It took only a couple of days before it became clear that Schiff had been the catalyst for a cascade of suspicion erupting within the Trump entourage.
Apparently Rep. Nunes received information that led him to seek out House Speaker Paul Ryan, who advised Nunes to take the so-called information regarding the “incidental collection” of Trump communications directly to Trump. It was later revealed that Nunes met his source for said information at the White House. Nunes also held a preliminary media meeting to disclose it. Although this had nothing to do with wiretapping, of course President Trump took it as “vindication of his lies.” That day, Nunes destroyed any credibility he might have had. Nunes’ behavior led Schiff to make this statement at a Capitol Hill news conference:
The chairman will either need to decide if he’s leading an investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he is going to act as a surrogate of the White House. Because he cannot do both.
There are a growing number of people mentioned in the RussiaGate conspiracy who have been fired. The White House is trying to stop the hemorrhaging with obvious lies and a dismissal of their own roles. More individuals are rumored to be ready to testify and the beginning of a massive “throwing each other under the bus” process is at work amongst those who were part of the Trump campaign.
White House sources have leaked information indicating that the environment within the building is one of chaos. They appear to sense that the end is near. A DailyKos article entitled “Any WH Staffer or Campaign Assoc Purging Phone Faces 20 Years in Prison for Obstruction of Justice” states:
Andrea Mitchell reported on Friday on MSNBC, at 12:55 p.m. EDT, that a single source told her that White House staffers have been purging their cell phones of texts for fear that they may be subpoenaed in any of the multiple investigations into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, including the Trump Campaign’s complicity in such Russian interference.
While the above-mentioned “source” is unnamed, it is apparent that Schiff’s connecting of the dots has been a catalyst. The scene of self-destruction by many key Trump players sounds like something out of a bad spy novel. However, Schiff has been adamant about uncovering the truth and not allowing anything like this to happen again. In his Capitol Hill news conference, Schiff stated:
We’re the only investigation there is. If we don’t do it, no one is going to do it. Now, perhaps the White House would like it that way. But the American people, I think, want there to be a credible investigation. And if we’re not going to conduct it, then we need to have an independent commission do it.
Schiff Won’t Stand Down
As Nunes has continued to demonstrate abnormal behavior that looks more like he is protecting Trump rather than his role as a lead chairman of the panel in the investigation, other members have requested that Nunes recuse himself; especially due to the fact that Nunes was a member of Trump’s transition team.
After it was revealed that Nunes met his source at the White House before later briefing President Trump, Schiff then called on Nunes to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation.
After much consideration I believe Chairman should recuse himself from involvement in investigation/oversight of Trump campaign & transition
As the second phase of the investigation neared, many were looking forward to the testimony of Sally Yates, former acting Attorney General that was fired by Trump. The White House apparently attempted to prevent her from testifying, but she was still scheduled to testify at the hearing that was scheduled for this week. As per a Washington Post article:
According to the letters, the Justice Department notified Yates earlier this month that the administration considers her possible testimony — including on the ouster of former national security adviser Michael Flynn for his contacts with the Russian ambassador — to be off-limits in a congressional hearing because the topics are covered by attorney-client privilege or the presidential communication privilege.
Just as suddenly, Nunes cancelled the second Russia hearing, which is believed to have been due to the displeasure of Trump and his administration, and an effort to stop Sally Yates’ damaging testimony. This further demonstrates the inability of Nunes to perform in his position on the team with any integrity. While Nunes indicated a lame excuse, Schiff didn’t stand down and instead stated in a press conference:
We strongly object to the cancellation of this hearing. We would still urge the majority to reconsider. The witnesses have made it clear that they are still available, and we would urge that that hearing be allowed to go forward.
Schiff also released his statement on Twitter, questioning whether or not Nunes cancelled the hearing to try and block Yates’ testimony.
Was today's open hearing cancelled because WH did not want Sally Yates to testify re Gen Flynn's deception? Didn't want to assert privilege?
Many have indicated that this entire investigation was just ‘posturing’ on the Republican side, with little interest in really finding out any of the information that linked Trump and his associates to Russian business and political alliances. For anyone that has been watching, it definitely has the appearance of sidelining.
While Adam Schiff has brought clarity to the antics of this investigation, it seems that things are going to move beyond this platform, as the Senate has established a committee and in this case, there will be serious focus. The Senate committee has eight Democrats of the fifteen investigative members and there will be no sideswiping of topics. Thanks to Schiff, more information has been revealed and we should be seeing in-depth data, including Yates and others testimonies.