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There are times that even The Onion—the popular satirical newspaper—can’t compete with the outlandish coverage produced by allegedly legitimate news publications. Newsweek magazine’s front-cover swoon over Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) this week is one such example.
The interview portrays Schiff as a warrior-martyr, fighting the evil Trump regime for the good of the country. He blasts Attorney General Bill Barr; regurgitates long-disproven allegations of Trump-Russia collusion; and again insists many of his Republican colleagues have private misgivings about President Trump but refuse to air those grievances in public for fear of retribution.
For anyone even remotely aware of Schiff’s congenital dishonesty and malfeasance, the Newsweek profile is as comical and ironic as any Onion parody could dream to be. Except one can assume the author and editors want the article to be taken seriously by its unserious readership.
Newsweek’s cover photo appears tweaked to bulk up his thin neck, which the president and some of Schiff’s Republican colleagues in the House have mocked with glee. (Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida last week introduced a bill entitled the PENCIL Act that demands Schiff be removed as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. President Trump recently called the California congressman, “little pencil-necked Adam Schiff.”) In an attempt to transform the geeky gadfly into a bad-ass, Newsweek accompanied the photo with a Schiff quote: “No one escapes the law.” Scary.
But the reality about Adam Schiff is that in a Democratic House caucus populated by schemers, shysters, haters, and flat-out embarrassments, Schiff stands apart.
An original architect of the Trump-Russia collusion fable since the summer of 2016, Schiff shamelessly continues to lie to the American public with claims that the president and his team conspired with the Kremlin to win the presidential election. He is the Jussie Smollett of the collusion hoax, insisting a crime really occurred even when every piece of evidence not only refutes that it ever happened but shows he was one of the original perpetrators.
In March 2017, Schiff told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd that there was “more than circumstantial evidence” to prove Team Trump was in cahoots with the Kremlin before the election. Much like the bleach and the rope and the MAGA hat-wearing thugs on lower Wacker Drive, however, that trove of evidence was just a prop. Schiff tried to halt the February 2018 release of a jaw-dropping memo authored by his predecessor chairman of the intelligence committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), that outlined the origins of the FISAgate scandal and how political propaganda funded by Democrats was presented to a secret court as evidence to get an order to spy on the Trump campaign before the election. He even demanded that Nunes step down from the committee.
Schiff’s misleading counter-memo, addressed to Congress, remains unedited even though it contains a number of allegations that are untrue in light of the facts. He’s been credibly accused of leaking classified and non-public information to the press.
Last summer, Schiff was pictured with Fusion GPS chief Glenn Simpson, the Democratic operative who peddled the fictional Steele dossier before and after the presidential election. Simpson has been under congressional scrutiny since 2017. And Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen admitted that he had met privately with Schiff and his staff for at least 10 hours before his Capitol Hill hearing in February. “I spoke to Mr. Schiff about topics that were going to be raised at the upcoming hearing,” Cohen told Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
Schiff’s unrepentant misconduct has been condemned by his Republican counterparts. In a no-faith letter addressed to Schiff last month, nine GOP lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee warned Schiff that he “abused [his] position to knowingly promote false information” about Trump-Russia collusion.
In the Newsweek interview, however, that harsh rebuke was portrayed as a moment of great pride and patriotism: For Schiff.
“Schiff leaned forward and scanned the room,” reporter Nina Burleigh described. “A former federal prosecutor, he responded with an indictment of his own. For the next five minutes, Schiff laid out his bill of particulars, including national security adviser Michael Flynn lying to the investigators and Trump firing FBI Director James Comey.”
What followed was a lengthy interview between Schiff and Burleigh, whose defamatory article in The Daily Telegraph earlier this year about First Lady Melania Trump resulted in a retraction and apology by the publication as well as a hefty settlement for Mrs. Trump.
Burleigh, like Schiff, cannot accept the reality that Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not find evidence of collusion.
“What does it say about our legal system that this investigation, with all the powers of the state behind it, can’t find illegality in any of that with respect to the man in the middle of it?” she asked. Schiff shared her concerns that no such kangaroo court exists yet in America, and lamented that the president cannot be indicted because the “standard now is so dumbed down to be simply whether something is criminal or not.” (Yes, this is an actual conversation between two adults.)
Schiff explained how he thinks Trump should be indicted for campaign finance violations: “No one escapes the law because of holding office,” he preened. Burleigh asked Schiff how “[William] Barr’s accusation that the FBI spied on the Trump campaign affect American trust in government,” obviously unaware that it was the actual spying on the Trump campaign, and not Barr’s accurate description of the scandal, that has further undermined American trust in government.
Schiff played along, referring to Barr’s truthful statement as “a cavalier and reckless suggestion.” She then sympathized about imaginary “conspiracy theories on the right,” some of which apparently involve Schiff. But the little trooper just explained how he was “used” to such conspiracies, “many of them fanned by the president.”
The cover feature and interview are entertaining for all the wrong reasons. For more than two years, the media, Democrats, and NeverTrump Republicans could pretend that the end was near, that the walls were closing in, and that evidence of collusion was in clear sight. That is no longer the case—but it isn’t stopping the same people from acting out the same play and repeating the same lines on cable news shows and in the pages of once-regarded magazines. Schiff continues to make the rounds on CNN and MSNBC where interviewers treat him as a credible source rather than the joke that he is.
It’s hard to see how The Onion competes with this level of unintentional satire.
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Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images