In an interview on the eve of the first day of the official impeachment inquiry, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff — the California congressman who is heading up the Democrats’ impeachment effort — shifted the focus of the discussion to what he suggested are potentially several more impeachable offenses by President Trump. During the interview, Schiff notably largely avoided using the term “quid pro quo,” which Republicans say the evidence undermines.
Schiff told NPR’s “Morning Edition” Tuesday that he believes the Democrats will be able to make the case that Trump committed several impeachable crimes, particularly “bribery” and “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which NPR notes are “both explicitly outlined in the Constitution as impeachable offenses.”
In making the case for alleged “bribery” by Trump, Schiff first argued for the Constitution’s “broader” definition of the term.
“Bribery, first of all, as the founders understood bribery, it was not as we understand it in law today. It was much broader,” he said, as reported by NPR. “It connoted the breach of the public trust in a way where you’re offering official acts for some personal or political reason, not in the nation’s interest.”
All the Democrats need to do to make the case for bribery, Schiff claimed, is to show that Trump was “soliciting something of value,” a broad definition indeed. Multiple witnesses who have spoken with the committee behind closed doors, Schiff told NPR’s Steve Inskeep, have presented evidence that Trump was trying to “solicit something of value.”
That Trump failed to do so, Schiff maintained, is beside the point. Trump’s request for Ukraine to “look into” the corruption allegations agains the Bidens, the subsequent actions of officials working on Trump’s behalf to try to make sure the investigation was conducted, and the temporary withholding of $391 in U.S. military aide is enough to impeach the president, he suggested.
That the military aide was given to Ukraine without the country ever conducting an investigation into the Bidens is neither here nor there, Schiff argued.
“I mean, when you consider the serious terms of whether the president has committed an impeachable offense, the fact that the scheme was discovered, the fact that the scheme was unsuccessful, doesn’t make it any less odious or any less impeachable,” said the Democratic congressman. “If the president solicited for help in the U.S. election, if the president conditioned official acts on the performance of these political favors, whether Ukraine ever had to go through with it really doesn’t matter. What matters is: Did the president attempt to commit acts that ought to result in his removal from office?”
While Schiff acknowledged that it was unlikely that the Senate would impeach Trump, as it requires a two-thirds majority vote, he defended the House Democrats’ resolve to see the process through. Impeachment, he argued, is “the most powerful sanction the House has,” and if it “deters further presidential misconduct, then it may provide some remedy even in the absence of a conviction in the Senate.”
Schiff’s role in what prompted the impeachment inquiry has come under increased scrutiny. After maintaining that he had no contact with the whistleblower who filed the complaint about Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, The New York Times revealed in an Oct. 2 report that the whistleblower consulted with Schiff’s office prior to filing the complaint, sparking allegations of a Democratic setup by Republicans.
“The Democratic head of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, learned about the outlines of a C.I.A. officer’s concerns that President Trump had abused his power days before the officer filed a whistle-blower complaint, according to a spokesman and current and former American officials,” the Times reported on Oct. 2, exposing Schiff’s misleading past statements about his contact with the whistleblower.
“The C.I.A. officer approached a House Intelligence Committee aide with his concerns about Mr. Trump only after he had had a colleague first convey them to the C.I.A.’s top lawyer,” the report continued. “Concerned about how that initial avenue for airing his allegations through the C.I.A. was unfolding, the officer then approached the House aide. In both cases, the original accusation was vague. The House staff member, following the committee’s procedures, suggested the officer find a lawyer to advise him and meet with an inspector general, with whom he could file a whistle-blower complaint.”
The Times made clear that Schiff himself was made aware of the complaint. “The aide shared some of what the officer conveyed to Mr. Schiff,” the Times reported, adding that the aide “did not share the whistle-blower’s identity with Mr. Schiff,” according to one official.