Up Schiff’s Creek

Adam Schiff is starting to wear on his own. He may be the darling of leftwing cable news. But like a moth to a candle, the California congressman is sucked into the camera lights, without realizing how he is scorched and consumed. He hijacked the Democratic House impeachment effort and then did the same in the Senate. As the inspiration for the entire farce, he is the man most responsible for the ensuing damage to the country and his party.

Remember, Schiff wanted to rush through impeachment in the House before the holidays and, in part, was responsible for not getting proper authorization to issue subpoenas to witnesses. He then politicized the calling of witnesses, and selectively leaked testimonies taken in the House basement—only to whine about partisanship when he wanted to slow down the impeachment trial in the Senate. In other words, he objected to the same sort of partisanship that he had introduced into the inquiry.

But what will be the status of a post-impeachment Schiff, once the impeachment farce has lost its luster? 

Thanks in part to Schiff, President Trump is polling more strongly now than when Schiff began the circus in September. 

Thanks in part to Schiff, the erstwhile frontrunner and best Democratic presidential chance, Joe Biden, is left hemorrhaging from impeachment’s never-ending embarrassments about Hunter Biden. 

Thanks in part to Schiff, Trump now enjoys more party solidarity than any recent Republican president. 

Thanks in part to Schiff, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been made irrelevant, and the formula that won the House in 2018 is ancient history. 

Thanks in part to Schiff, Trump rallies have gone ballistic with about 40 percent of his audiences including Democrats and Independents.

In truth, Schiff’s ego was wetted by the rah-rah, but unhinged anchors of cable news, and he began to believe in his own anti-Trump godhead. But he has now lied so often and so blatantly, that almost anything he says is deemed automatically false. 

Ironically, the best thing that could have happened to Schiff was this coming quick end to the farce, given that if had he testified before the Senate, he would have destroyed what little is left of his reputation. 

Schiff Lies

Think of the Schiff record of serial falsity over the last three years. Schiff habitually lied that he had information, albeit secret and known only to his partisans on the Intelligence Committee, that Trump had colluded with the Russians, and almost any day such bombshells would blow up his presidency. That proved all untrue—and paradoxically confirmed as such by Andrew Weissmann’s dream-team of “misotrumps.” 

Schiff’s memo was designed to subvert then-House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’s near-simultaneous majority report. Schiff’s alternate reality version was repudiated by the nonpartisan Horowitz report on many counts, but two points, in particular, stand out. Schiff knowingly lied when he reported that the FBI and the Justice Department had not relied much on the Steele dossier given a supposed abundance of other evidence, and paradoxically that the Steele dossier was not unverified or bogus. Both assertions were false and proven so by an Obama-appointed inspector general.

Schiff read into the congressional record a false version of the transcript of the Trump phone call. He only recalibrated it as a “parody” when his outraged colleagues objected that he had deliberately distorted a written record. Schiff misrepresented text messages concerning Ukrainians, falsely claiming that mention of “Mr. Z.” meant “Zelensky,” the Ukrainian president, instead of the actual reference to “Zlochevsky,” the Ukrainian oligarch who founded Burisma, the company at the center of the corruption claims surrounding the Bidens.

Schiff established a new low bar when he data mined the phone calls of some of his own House colleagues. 

Schiff’s most egregious lie was his categorical statement that he and his staff had not met with the so-called whistleblower and to this day he does know his identity. Had the whistleblower taken the stand in the impeachment trial, under oath he would have had to correct Schiff’s lies, which even now may come to light should transcripts of the intelligence community inspector general’s redacted congressional testimony come to light.

Schiff once told the nation that we would be hearing “soon” from the whistleblower. That, too, was a lie. Again, to have heard him either would have proven the whistleblower or Schiff a liar, given their stories cannot be reconciled. 

Schiff’s assertions that Donald Trump, Jr. called his father about a meeting with the Russians was false. He was punked by two Russian performance comedians, impostors claiming that they could offer to Schiff compromising smut on Trump, an offer that the rumor-mongering Schiff was correctly expected to explore.

The last thing Schiff wished was to air the story how the whistleblower, an anti-Trump zealot and pro-Biden functionary, cooked up his second- and third-hand complaint after talking to a National Security Council staffer, and then went to Schiff’s office for advice about how best to leverage his report for impeachment. 

Schiff also likely would have been embarrassed by Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman if the NSC staffer had been recalled to testify and his answers no longer massaged and guided by Schiff. And had the whistleblower testified under oath, at best his various navigations with Vindman, Schiff’s staff, Schiff, and the inspector general would have confirmed how the entire impeachment caper was cooked up. At worst, the whistleblower likely would have had to testify about his prior and present conversations with Joe Biden in matters that might even have transcended Ukraine. 

Doomed from the Start

Schiff’s Senate presentation was surreal in that it was supposed to press home the House’s two indictments of abuse of power and “obstruction of Congress.” But given that neither charge is a crime as envisioned by the Constitution’s framers, Schiff was bound to fall flat. As a result, Schiff’s team arrived at the Senate empty-handed and simply threw out anything that came into their minds as cause to remove a duly elected president, as if a prosecuting attorney in the midst of a trial daily throws out new charges when his original indictments fail.

So Schiff rambled and rambled, simply repeating boilerplate false accusations. He obsessed on “Russian collusion,” never admitting that even the FBI’s warped Crossfire Hurricane found that there was no there, that 22 months of Robert Mueller’s investigations found no Russian collusion, and that the thrust of Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s massive report was that the bible of Russian collusion, the Steele dossier, was an unverified opposition research hit piece and used to delude a FISA court to unethically and perhaps illegally spy on an American citizen.

Schiff claimed that Trump had obstructed investigations into his conduct. But Robert Mueller’s all-stars found no actionable obstruction.  

So Schiff dug up yet again rotting dead tropes of “quid pro quo” and “bribery” and “campaign finance abuse” and then veered back and forth to former National Security Advisor John Bolton, his latest Holy Grail. Schiff insisted he needed more witnesses, after bragging that the case was already shut and closed and Trump had been proven a criminal.

Schiff’s lies so far have not bothered his colleagues, given that they assumed that his dogged obsessions with Trump had paid political dividends, and would continue to do so in the future.   Impeaching Trump seemed to all Democrats and leftists a good idea in September 2019, given the disappointment over the past failures of impeachment 1.0, the 25th Amendment, the Emoluments Clause, the Logan Act, Stormy Daniels, tax returns, and Schiff’s never-ending Wile E. Coyote chase. 

Last autumn, Trump’s polls seemed to be again rising. And with the sad Mueller congressional testimony ending his farce, the hounding of Trump seemed over. 

So attention would have turned to the 2020 election, the agendas of the Democratic candidates—from the Green New Deal to reparations and Medicare for everybody—and to the Democrats on the debate stage, as if the “Destroy Trump” project would at last rest with the 2020 election.

Apparently, that was seen, as in the case of 2016, as a bad risk. Democrats needed another “insurance policy.” But what no one who followed Schiff up his creek pondered was the monotony of impeachment, the overexposure of the off-putting Schiff, the weakness of the impeachment writs, and the general boredom of the American people with the never-ending get Trump story.

Just as Schiff sought to take credit for taking out Trump, so too will he be blamed for only further empowering him. 

Schiff’s errors in left-wing eyes were worse than crimes—they were blunders.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump and the recently released The Dying Citizen, and the forthcoming The End of Everything (May 7, 2024)..

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