Adam Schiff and the Truth

The House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry focused a spotlight on Rep. Adam Schiff (D., CA), the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (“HPSCI”).  Under that glare, we can see that Adam Schiff is perfectly indifferent to the truth or falsity of what he says, despite all the studied solemnity with which he speaks.

As we all know, the pressure to open an impeachment inquiry in the House became irresistible (notwithstanding Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reluctance to go down that route) when news was leaked of a whistleblower’s complaint about a telephone call, on July 25, 2019, between Pres. Trump and the very-newly-elected Pres. Zelenskyy of Ukraine.  Soon after that leak, the White House released the official memorandum of the conversation.

House Democrats insist that the memorandum, taken together with other evidence, reveals that Pres. Trump abused the power of his office by trying to strong-arm Pres. Zelenskyy to investigate (a) whether Ukraine or particular Ukrainians interfered in the 2016 U.S. election, and (b) the role former Vice-President Joe Biden (who is now a potential competitor against Trump in the 2020 U.S. election) played in disrupting a Ukrainian prosecutorial inquiry into a company that had hired Biden’s son as a board member.  The strong-arm tactics, according to Democrats, might have succeeded because the Trump administration allegedly (a) was improperly withholding vital congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine, and (b) was also unreasonably refusing to grant Pres. Zelenskyy a much-coveted White House visit.

In the memorandum, the only time the name “Biden” is mentioned is when Pres. Trump says to Pres. Zelenskyy:

The other thing, There’s [sic] 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.

Pres. Zelenskyy immediately responds:

I wanted to tell you about the prosecutor.  First of all I understand and I’m knowledgeable about the situation.  Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September.  He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue.  The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case….

The HPSCI, chaired by Adam Schiff, was directed by the House to investigate the facts around the July 25 call, with a view toward determining whether Pres. Trump had abused his power.  Of course, the most fundamental piece of evidence was the official memorandum.

The HPSCI hearing began, as is traditional, with an opening statement from Chairman Schiff, but one hopes that his startling mendacity was anything but traditional.  Schiff began by stating (at 4:10 in the linked video) that he was going to set forth “the essence of what the president [namely, Pres. Trump] communicates” to Pres. Zelenskyy during the July 25 conversation.  This is Schiff’s version (at 4:35 in the linked video) of the essence of what Pres. Trump said to Pres. Zelenskyy about the Bidens:

I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent.  Understand?  Lots of it.

Then, after completing his version of the supposed “essence” of Pres. Trump’s message, Schiff asserts (at 5:13 in the linked video): “This is, in sum and character, what the president was trying to communicate.”

So, “the essence” of Pres. Trump’s request that Pres. Zelenskyy cooperate with the U.S. Attorney General in finding out about former Vice-Pres. Biden’s role in stopping a Ukrainian prosecutor from investigating a company which had hired Biden’s son as a board member is translated by Adam Schiff  as Pres. Trump telling Pres. Zelenskyy to “make up dirt…[l]ots of it” on Joe Biden.  And Pres. Zelenskyy’s response, which expresses a desire to “restore the honesty” of his country’s government, is apparently in Schiff’s mind an expression of willingness to “make up dirt…lots of it” on Joe Biden

There will be endless disputes about whether or not Pres. Trump was soliciting a bribe, or seeking an improper quid pro quo, in his dealings with Ukraine.  But what cannot be disputed is that, before the HPSCI, and before the entire nation watching those proceedings, Adam Schiff flat-out lied about the conversation between the two presidents.  No one who understands American English can accept Schiff’s version of the “essence” of what was said by the two presidents.

But one should not be excessively harsh in condemning Schiff.  He is, at the very least, consistent in his uniquely twisted understanding of ordinary English.  I say that because, when the House tasked his committee with investigating the president, Schiff understood that to mean it was his job to make up dirt—and lots of it—on a political opponent, one Donald J. Trump.  Starting with what obviously is his assumption—that everyone is as dishonest and fanatically partisan as he is himself—it’s understandable how Schiff reached his bizarre conclusion about the “essence” of a key phone call.

About the Author
David E. Weisberg is a semi-retired attorney and a member of the N.Y. Bar; he also has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The University of Michigan (1971). He now lives in Cary, NC. His scholarly papers on U.S. constitutional law can be read on the Social Science Research Network at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=2523973
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