Democrat Adam Schiff, prosecutorial star of Trump impeachment probe
by Agence France-Presse
Adam Schiff, the head of the Democrats’ investigation of President Donald Trump, sought Hollywood glory in his younger days as a prosecutor by crafting a screenplay for a thriller.
That didn’t go anywhere, but Schiff is now about to hit the small-screen bigtime starring in his own legal procedural: The Impeachment of a President.
As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on Wednesday Schiff will gavel in the first open hearing of the investigation into whether Trump violated his oath of office and the law in seeking help from Ukraine for his 2020 reelection campaign.
In appearance, few would choose Schiff, 59, as the Democrats’ attack dog to take down a Republican leader who is fighting tooth and nail to save his presidency.
A California congressman representing the Hollywood-Burbank entertainment industry hub, he appears more like a vicar or a primary school principal. He never raises his voice, and rarely strays into hyperbole.
That made his quietly delivered outrage at the news of Trump’s Ukraine dealings in September even more impactful.
Trump’s July demand for a “favor” from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky reflects “a classic mafia-type shakedown of a foreign leader,” Schiff said.
“This is how a mafia boss talks: ‘What have you done for us?'”
Trump has blasted back that Schiff fabricated his words, and now does not miss a chance to label him, without offering any evidence, a “corrupt politician.”
“Shifty Schiff is a double-corrupt politician,” Trump said Friday, attacking the impeachment proceedings as a “scam” and “witch hunt.”
– ‘Measured but forceful’ –
As mild-mannered as he appears, Schiff has proven to be a focused, determined investigator, and tough as a bulldog. He’s a fit cyclist who at 50 completed a triathlon.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi chose him, rather than the expected choice of Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, to lead the impeachment effort.
Schiff is “logical, linear, measured but forceful,” she said.
His approach is rooted in a late 1980s case, when Schiff, not long out of Harvard Law School, prosecuted the first FBI agent ever jailed for spying for Moscow.
“I learned a lot about Russian tradecraft: how the Russians operate, who they target, the vulnerabilities they look for,” he recounted earlier this year to Zach Dorfman of the Aspen Institute Cyber and Technology program.
That background has taken him to the House Intelligence Committee, which has spent much of the last few years investigating how Russians aided Trump’s 2016 election campaign.
– Pressure of national television –
He takes the impeachment operation with utmost seriousness, showing a limited patience for efforts by Republican colleagues to turn the procedures into a political show.
Transcripts of testimony the committee took behind closed doors during October show him wielding a firm hand as Republicans try to discredit witnesses and change the subject.
That will only intensify under the gaze of an audience on national television.
But, after having resisted impeachment for months, he claims the evidence is strong — much more than just Trump’s July 25 phone call demanding a “favor” from Zelensky.
In the coming hearings, he wrote in USA Today this week, “Americans will hear directly from dedicated and patriotic public servants about how they became aware that US foreign policy had been subverted for the president’s personal political interests.”
“While temperatures might run high and the temptation to turn this solemn process into a political circus could be irresistible to some, I hope that all members of Congress and the public will focus on the facts and the substance of the testimony, not on politics or partisanship.”