Rep. Adam Schiff has long been a Trump hater. But he took that hatred to an all new high as he chaired a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday featuring testimony from acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire.
Midway through his opening statement, the California Democrat decided to deliver a “parody” of what transpired in a July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“What happened on the call?” Schiff said.
“Zelensky begins by ingratiating himself, and he tries to enlist the support of the president. He expresses his interest in meeting the president and says his country wants to acquire more weapons to defend itself. And what is the president’s response? Well, it reads like a classic organized crime shakedown. Shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words, this is the essence of what the president communicates.”
Then Schiff played Trump as a mafioso. ” ‘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. I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you, though. And I’m going to say this only seven times, so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand, lots of it, on this and on that. I’m going to put you in touch with people, not just any people, I’m going to put you in touch with the Attorney General of the United States, my Attorney General Bill Barr. He’s got the whole weight of the American law enforcement behind him. And I’m going to put you in touch with Rudy — you’re going to love him, trust me. You know what I’m asking, and 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, I’ll call you when you’ve done what I’ve asked.’
“This is in sum and character what the president was trying to communicate with the president of Ukraine. It would be funny if it wasn’t such a graphic betrayal of the president’s oath of office,” Schiff said.
But that’s not what transpired in the [phone call — not even close.
In a transcript of the call released Tuesday, here’s exactly what Trump said regarding Biden’s son:
“I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”
That’s it. He never demanded Zelensky “investigate” Biden’s son, simply asks him to if he can “look into it.”
But that also has to be taken in context. Trump had previously expressed his interest in allegations that Ukraine had played some role in meddling with the 2016 election. Here’s what Trump said to the Ukraine president:
“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people … The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”
That was clearly an effort by Trump to probe backward into the 2016 election. That’s the “favor” Trump was asking — no pressure, just a favor.
As for that quid pro quo, that didn’t happen, either.
In the call, Trump told Zelensky the US has been “very, very good” to Ukraine.
“A lot of European countries are the same way, so I think it’s something you want to look at but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine. I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very, very good to Ukraine,” he said.
Zelensky agreed, telling Trump the United States has been a “much bigger partner” to Ukraine than other European countries regarding sanctions on Russia. Then he said Ukraine was “almost ready” to buy additional Javelin anti-tank missiles from the U.S.
Trump makes no mention of the $391 million in foreign aid that he had directed Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, to put a hold days before the July 25 call. Trump has said that the money was put on hold to press foreign leaders in the region to pony up their own aid. The White House released the funds to Ukraine in September.
So, no quid pro quo, either.
After a Republican bashed Schiff for making light of a serious situation, Schiff said: “As an aside, I want to mention that my colleague is right on both counts. It’s not OK, but also, my summary of the president’s call was meant to be at least part in parody. The fact that’s not clear is a separate problem in and of itself. Of course, the president never said if you don’t understand me, I’m going to say it seven more times. My point is that’s the message that the Ukraine president was receiving in not so many words.” Watch the video below (skip to 3:58).