Donald Trump on Friday called for House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff to resign over his portrayal of Trump’s message to Ukraine’s president in their phone call that the president called an attempt to “defraud the American public.”
Schiff has long been a thorn in Trump’s side and now Speaker Nancy Pelosi has placed him in charge of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, which is centered on the July 25 telephone conversation with Volodymyr Zelenskiy. During the call, Trump asks Zelenskiy for a “favor” after the incoming Ukrainian leader noted his intention to purchase more U.S.-made military hardware. That favor was Trump’s desire for an investigation of 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden.
During a Thursday hearing about an intelligence community whistleblower’s complaint about that call and White House aides’ coordinated effort to “lock down” the records, Schiff kicked off the hearing by summarizing Trump’s request of Zelenskiy, saying what he was about to recount was “the essence of what the president communicates.”
He offered other qualifiers at the end of his recounting, which featured more direct and pointed language than the president used in the White House’s version of events. In Republican circles and in conservative media, Schiff is being vilified for embellishing what Trump really said — and the president joined that chorus Friday morning.
Trump tweeted that Schiff “fraudulently read to Congress” a version of the Zelenskiy conversation “that doesn’t exist.” Trump, ignoring Schiff’s qualifier at the top of his statement, alleged that the chairman was “supposedly reading the exact transcribed version of the call, but he completely changed the words to make it........sound horrible, an me sound guilty.”
But Schiff never said he was reading directly from the White House-prepared summary of the call and used the word “essence.”
No matter for Trump.
“HE WAS DESPERATE AND HE GOT CAUGHT,” wrote the president as he struggles to fashion a counter-message amid a volley of Democratic charges that he acted corruptly and likely broke federal law by soliciting foreign help for a personal political benefit. Trump then wrote that Schiff “lied to Congress and attempted to defraud the American Public.”
“I am calling for him to immediately resign from Congress based on this fraud!” the president tweeted, his second call for a top House Democrat to step aside.
Rep. Adam Schiff fraudulently read to Congress, with millions of people watching, a version of my conversation with the President of Ukraine that doesn’t exist. He was supposedly reading the exact transcribed version of the call, but he completely changed the words to make it....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2019
On Wednesday, Trump said he no longer considers Pelosi the speaker because she decided the Ukraine matter was too serious to continue avoiding her members’ calls for a formal impeach inquiry.
But, like with Pelosi, Trump lacks the authority to merely strip Schiff of his gavel and send him back to private life in California.
Later Friday, renewed his call that Schiff resign, calling him a “sick man.”
Rep. Adam Schiff totally made up my conversation with Ukraine President and read it to Congress and Millions. He must resign and be investigated. He has been doing this for two years. He is a sick man!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2019
Schiff began his opening remarks on Thursday by declaring, “This is the essence of what the president communicates.
"We've been very good to your country. Very good. No other country has done as much as we have. But you know what, I don't see much reciprocity here,” Schiff said before the Intelligence Committee spent hours grilling Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire about the whistleblower’s complaint and his handling of it.
“I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you, though, and I'm gonna say this only seven times, so you better listen good," Schiff added, now clearly offering a different version of Trump’s remarks than what was spelled out in the White House-crafted summary. “I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand? Lots of it ... on this and on that.”
At another point in his hyperbolic recounting, the chairman, speaking as Trump, tells Zelenskiy of Attorney General William P. Barr: “He’s got the whole weight of the American law enforcement behind him and I'm gonna put you in touch with Rudy [Giuliani]. You're gonna love him, trust me.”
Schiff appeared to be interpreting the president’s words for those watching in the room and on TV.
“You know what I'm asking, so I'm only going to say this a few more times in a few more ways. And by the way, don’t call me again,” Schiff said, still speaking as Trump. “I'll call you when you’ve done what I asked.”
At the end, Schiff did attempt to make clear he had not been reading from the White House’s summary.
“This is in sum and character what the president was trying to communicate with the president of Ukraine,” he said before turning his remarks to Maguire.
Rep. Devin Nunes, the panel’s former chairman and now-ranking member, was not impressed with Schiff’s performance when he spoke immediately following his fellow Californian.
“I want to congratulate the Democrats on the rollout of their latest information warfare operation against the president, and their extraordinary ability once again to enlist the mainstream media in their campaign,” Nunes said.
“And once again, the Democrats, their media mouthpieces, and a cabal of leakers are ginning up a fake story," Nunes added, "with no regard to the monumental damage they’re causing to our public institutions and to trust in government.”
Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.