Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, hasn’t been one of the prominent Democrats calling for Donald Trump’s impeachment. But in an interview on Sunday, Schiff said impeachment may be the “only remedy” if the stories about Trump pressuring Ukrainian officials to dig up dirt on Joe Biden are true.
Earlier on Sunday, Trump told reporters he had a “warm and friendly” telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Vologymyr Zelensky back in July. That phone call reportedly is one of the incidents contained in an intelligence community whistleblower complaint that the Trump administration refuses to turn over to Congress.
“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, was largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine, and Ukraine’s got a lot of problems,” Trump said in a comment that was as jumbled and messy as his hair and his demeanor.
Trump described the call as “absolutely perfect,” which is not necessarily the type of descriptive language one might use when referring to modern presidential communications.
In response, Schiff told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the White House should release the transcript of the call to prove no wrongdoing had occurred.
“We’re determined to make sure…that the nation is protected, that if the president of the United States is browbeating a foreign leader at the same time he was withholding vital military assistance the Ukraine needed to defend itself against Russia, and trying to get dirt on his political opponent in yet a second campaign, then the country needs to know about it and we need to take defensive steps,” Schiff said.
Earlier, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Tapper that the call in question was classified, but that he isn’t aware of what was discussed. Yet, without being aware of what was said, Mnuchin somehow knew enough about it to discredit media reports. He also said that turning over the whistleblower complaint to Congress, or just a transcript of the call, “would be a terrible precedent.”
“Conversations between world leaders are meant to be confidential,” Mnuchin said. “And if every time someone for political reasons raised a question, and all of a sudden, those conversations were disclosed publicly…then why would world leaders want to have conversations together?”
Keep in mind that Trump has had plenty of calls with foreign leaders that haven’t warranted as much scrutiny, and the whistleblower complaint by law must be turned over to Congress.
Schiff explained the distinction: “Well, not if those conversations involve potential corruption or criminality or leverage being used for political advantage against our nation’s interest. And that’s what’s at stake here.”
He added: “This would be, I think, the most profound violation of the presidential oath of office, certainly during this presidency, which says a lot, but perhaps during just about any presidency. There is no privilege that covers corruption.”
Schiff noted that he does not know if the conversation was at the heart of the whistleblower complaint, but if it is, he said, “It needs to be exposed.”
“If there is a relationship between this [whistleblower] complaint and this issue, you have not only this illicit conduct by the president of the United States, but you also have the added element of a cover-up,” Schiff said.
Tapper asked if Trump’s conduct is impeachable, to which Schiff responded, “If the president is essentially withholding military aid at the same time that he is trying to browbeat a foreign leader into doing something illicit that is providing dirt on his opponent during a presidential campaign, then that may be the only remedy that is coequal to the evil that conduct represents.”
Translation: If Trump did this thing and is now obstructing justice by withholding the whistleblower complaint, then impeach him.
Watch the entire interview: