I had to get up to Rep. Adam B. Schiff on “Midnight in Washington,” his new book on Trump administration scandals and the dangers of transforming a once cult-based GOP. of the former president.
There were times when I felt like slamming the book and throwing it out the window.
It wasn’t easy to relive how President Trump so blatantly greeted Russian aid in his 2016 presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton, how he tried to blackmail Ukraine into spitting dirt on his rival. of 2020, Joe Biden, and the absolute impunity with which he crashes through anything that looks like a legal, moral, or ethical safeguard. “I felt the same mixture of emotions when I wrote it,” Schiff said when we met for lunch on Tuesday in Burbank, the Democrat’s home district.
Even now, in the midst of a deluge of new information about how Trump tried to steal the 2020 election from Biden, it’s depressing to imagine Republicans following him as he almost certainly announces that he will be soliciting in new presidency in 2024.
“I’m sure he’s going to run because it would be intolerable for him to see someone else get attention,” Schiff said. “He feels like a loser and wants to erase the stain of being beaten.”
Echoing Trump’s famous veiled threat to President of Ukraine Schiff, however, has done the American people “a favor” with his first book, due for release on Tuesday. History and truth demand that we do not allow Republicans to whitewash the Trump presidency. Having Schiff’s well-written brief will prove to be a must as they try to, say, downplay the January 6 riot as a “normal sightseeing tour.”
In great detail, Schiff, 61, recounts the investigations he carried out, first as a high-ranking member, then as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and later, of course, as chief prosecutor in Trump’s first Senate impeachment trial.
“What I really wanted to convey in the book is that if people feel like democracies end with force, it’s actually the actions of individual people,” Schiff said.
In sickening detail, Schiff recounts the chilling moral of his fellow Republicans and Trump administration officials, who willingly trade their integrity to save their political skin.
There was the moment in March 2019 when the nine Republicans on the Intelligence Committee ambushed Schiff with a scathing letter asking him to step down as president for insisting the Trump campaign was colluding. with the Russians in 2016. The Mueller report found no evidence of a “criminal”. conspiracy ”, which is not at all the same as no collusion.
Far from hurting Schiff, the Republican ambush gave him the opportunity for a mind-blowing speech by shutting them down:
“You might think it’s okay, ”Schiff said as he ticked off more than a dozen documented cases where Trump and his minions had improper contact with Russians – including Trump seeking help from the Kremlin to secure a real estate deal in Moscow who would have made him hundreds of millions of dollars, and members of the Trump family and campaign officials meeting Russians who vowed to smear Clinton.
“Corn I don’t think that’s OK, ”Schiff said. “I think it’s immoral. I think it is unethical. I think it’s unpatriotic. And, yes, I think it’s corrupt, and evidence of collusion.
Schiff said he is often asked if his fellow Republicans believe what they say in public about the events of the past few years. “The answer is no,” he said. “The people I serve with know the ‘Big Lie’ is a big lie.” That includes Senate and House minority leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, who both condemned Trump for instigating the deadly Jan.6 insurgency, before changing course.
“I think it’s really essential to tell the whole story, to keep fighting America’s gaslighting, because it’s all part of the same ‘Big Lie’,” Schiff said. “Trump is like a drop of poison every day in the body politic.”
“Midnight in Washington” is not entirely gloomy, especially the descriptions of the courage displayed by people like former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich, who has been ruthlessly denigrated by Trump and Rudolph W. Giuliani; diplomat William Taylor, who threatened to resign if Trump refused his security assistance in Ukraine; and National Security Council officials Fiona Hill and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, both of whom have published briefs.
Thankfully, Schiff also has a sense of humor that sometimes brightens up the moment.
A fellow Democrat, he writes, once offered him $ 20 to introduce then-US Representative Trey Gowdy, a look-alike of Harry Potter villain Draco Malfoy, as a “Slytherin gentleman.” He did not, he writes, “but I was greatly tempted.”
Schiff is quick to admit his missteps – telling MSNBC, for example, that his committee had not spoken with the Ukrainian whistleblower when it turned out the person had spoken to an assistant on the intelligence committee. . Schiff said he misunderstood the question; he thought he had been asked if the whistleblower had testified in private. “I was careless in my answer,” he told me.
And of course, there was Schiff’s famous mafia boss parody of the phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. As there was no official transcript of the call, only a memo based on the recollections of those who listened, Schiff took the liberty of putting Jimmy Cagney-style words in Trump’s mouth: adversary, “he said. Schiff said. “Understand? A lot.”
For that, Trump accused Schiff of “treason” and said he should be accused of “lying to Congress”.
It was, of course, a sideshow aimed at distracting from the real issue: Trump’s perfidy and the debasement of the US presidency.
One of the accomplishments of Schiff’s book is the way it weaves the many disparate threads of a complicated story that unfolded over several years as the balance of power in the House shifted from Republicans to Democrats in mid- Trump’s tenure path.
What exactly was Republican Rep. Devin Nunes doing when he took his infamous “midnight run” to the White House to give Trump documents purporting to show the Obama administration spied on Trump’s campaign? It was in March 2017, during what was supposed to be the House Intelligence Committee’s “independent” investigation into Russia.
As it turned out, the documents were handed over to Nunes by two of Trump’s most blatant supporters – not whistleblowers, as Nunes had people believe. Although he was subsequently cleared in an ethical investigation into the disclosure of classified information, Nunes was kicked out of his post as chairman of the committee.
“Even his fellow Republicans did not want to defend him,” writes Schiff, who theorizes that Nunes became slightly off balance after the humiliation.
Indeed, later, during impeachment hearings, Nunes sometimes seemed to be living on Planet Crazy, demanding that Democrats recognize that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered with the 2016 election. (This, as Schiff pointed out, is a Russian talking point.)
“I would listen to some of the Republicans’ opening statements,” Schiff said, “but unless you’re looking not just at Fox, but in the weeds of an all-out Alice in Wonderland conspiracy story. , you couldn’t make heads or tails out of this. You needed some cognitive dissonance just to accept it.
Republicans, for example, insisted there was a “deep state” plot against Trump, even though former FBI Director James B. Comey was, as Schiff put it, “more than willing to talk about Hillary Clinton’s emails 10 days before the election, but kept an investigation into the Trump campaign completely under wraps.
As I left the restaurant, Schiff told me that he had not received a publisher’s advance for his book; it is against the ethical rules of the House. U.S. senators can get them, however, noted Patrick Boland, Schiff’s chief of staff.
“Well, this is a scandal, ”Schiff said with a laugh.