Lies, Damned Lies and Adam Schiff's Moving Lips
You can take your pick for the most famous liars in history — people who are willing to say anything for the sake of gaining and keeping power — but surely Rep. Adam Schiff has earned a place on that list.
I won’t call Schiff a “congenital liar” — as Fox News personality Sean Hannity does nightly — but only because the term excuses Schiff of personal responsibility for his behavior. I don’t think it was his genes that made Schiff into a consummate liar but rather his narcissistic personality.
Watching Schiff spin his yarns as chief House manager for the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump reminds me of the great dissemblers of Shakespeare, such as “Honest Iago,” who is only comfortable in his own skin when he is making the skin of others crawl. The “motiveless malignity” that poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge ascribed to Iago is writ large in the perfunctory perfidy that Schiff practices with unassuming ease. He would destroy a king, but he assures us he takes no pleasure in it, wink-wink, nod-nod.
Perhaps I am giving Schiff too much credit. He might be more akin to Monsieur Parolles of “All’s Well That Ends Well,” the arrogant know-it-all whose own words come back to haunt him: “He will lie, sir, with such volubility, that you would think truth were a fool.”
That, of course, is the problem, because the senators hearing the impeachment trial might also be giving Schiff too much credit. If they are not familiar with the facts of the case, then they might lend credibility to the pompous utterances emanating from the well of the Senate by Schiff and the other House managers. Since the rules of the Senate allowed Schiff to make his argument for 24 uninterrupted hours, it gave him the opportunity to frame the case against President Trump in fully partisan and factually deficient terms. The only word that accurately describes what Schiff did to Trump in his presentation of the case is to say that he “framed” him. To use a legal term of art, Schiff argued “facts not in evidence,” and without anyone to object, the senators were left to assume that these facts were true when time and again they were false and misleading.
Start with Schiff opening his argument by quoting Alexander Hamilton on the dangers to the republic of unprincipled men, and you will begin to appreciate the Shakespearean scope of the irony at play last week. Schiff meant to castigate Trump, but the words are better directed at Schiff himself — for it is he who is “seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity.” It is he who has joined in the “cry of danger to liberty.” It is he who has taken “every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion.” It is he who has fallen in with “all the non sense of the zealots of the day.”
It is appropriate therefore to apply Hamilton’s warning against unprincipled men of bold temper to the chief House manager himself: “It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.”
We got plenty of sturm und drang as Schiff began to lay out the case against the president to an audience of virginal senators who were hearing only one side of the story for three straight days. The danger was laid out accurately by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, although as usual he missed the point:
“It may have been the first time that many of my Republican colleagues heard the full story, the complete narrative from start to finish, uninterrupted and not filtered through the kaleidoscope lens of Fox News where at best things are left out and at worst things are terribly distorted. It may have planted the first seed in their minds that, yes, perhaps the president did something very wrong here.”
Do you spot the logical fallacy in this statement? It is the key to the entire impeachment hoax. Schumer believes that Schiff delivered “the full story, the complete narrative” when, in fact, he just delivered the same argument we have heard since September. It cannot be the “full story” because at that time last week we had still not heard “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey used to say. Namely, we had not heard the president’s defense team make any rebuttal of the unchallenged assumptions of Schiff and the Democratic coup crew. It was in the House managers’ presentation, not Fox News, that we saw how “at best things [were] left out and at worst things [were] terribly distorted.”
I cringed as I listened to Rep. Schiff make repeated assertions of fact that were nothing but opinion and wondered how the senators could possibly not recognize the trick. Forget about the Senate being the greatest deliberative body in the world — hadn’t any of them at least been debaters in high school? How hard is it to spot a red herring when you are shooting fish in a barrel?
I started trying to catalog Schiff’s lies as soon as he played the Hamilton card. As the House Intelligence Committee chairman explained, the Hamilton quote was from 1792 when George Washington was finishing up his first term of office. The quote comes from a document in which Hamilton was defending himself against politically motivated charges that he was operating against the public interest as secretary of the Treasury. It should thus be seen as a parallel of President Trump defending himself against the petty and scurrilous attacks of his political opponents, not as an indictment of Trump.
When Hamilton wrote elsewhere in the same document that, to his opponents, “every man of a different opinion from your own [seems] an ambitious despot or a corrupt knave,” he might well have been talking of the hubristic approach of Monsieur Schiff as he defames the duly elected president of the United States. Consider for instance how Schiff conflates Hamilton’s fear of “a man unprincipled in private life” with the framers’ impeachment mechanism as a means to remove a president who has committed “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” They, of course, have nothing in common. Hamilton was confronting a movement of agitators who, as he notes, were taking “every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion.” Schiff is himself that enemy whom Hamilton confronted, yet to the innocent ears of the Senate, perhaps unfamiliar with Hamilton’s text on “Objections and Answers Respecting the Administration,” it may seem entirely reasonable to apply Hamilton’s warning to Trump. Such is the devious nature of these distortions. We can only hope that the president’s lawyers were taking careful notes and can remind the senators of the casual disregard for truth that Schiff exhibits almost every time he opens his mouth in public.
After months of dry runs, Schiff started to lay out his case in earnest on Wednesday last week — except he didn’t. The facts that he presented (while damnable) were not impeachable; and the opinions that he presented (while impeachable) were not factual. For those of us who have been watching the Schiff Show since September, the legerdemain was easily spotted within the first five minutes.
According to Schiff, “President Trump solicited foreign interference in our democratic elections, abusing the power of his office to seek help from abroad to improve his reelection prospects at home.”
This is the central argument of the first article of impeachment, and yet it is entirely without substantiation. Trump did ask President Zelensky of the Ukraine to look into allegations of corruption involving former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. He also did ask for Zelensky’s help in investigating whether or not a computer server was located in the Ukraine that contained evidence of election interference in 2016. In other words he did not solicit interference in an election, but rather sought a commitment to assist in finding out whether interference had already illicitly taken place.
Neither Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president, nor Rudy Giuliani’s prior or subsequent investigations, were ever founded on a premise of soliciting foreign interference in an election. That is strictly the surmise of Democrats who do not like the idea of President Trump investigating corruption involving Joe Biden, the potential future standard-bearer for their party. Any claim that Trump’s motive is known to be corrupt is strictly a guess, no matter how loudly Schiff and his colleagues proclaim it to be so. Same thing goes for the CrowdStrike server. Schiff opines that Trump was promoting the idea that Ukraine, to the exclusion of Russia, interfered in the 2016 election. That conjecture by Schiff in entirely without evidence. The reason why the missing server is important is because it might explain what really happened in 2016 and how Democratic emails were purloined to the detriment of Hillary Clinton. Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election had nothing to do with the server, but was an entirely separate issue related to official government opposition to Trump’s election.
The second article of impeachment was neatly summed up in Schiff’s next sentence about the president’s response after the whistleblower’s complaint was made public: “When he was caught, he used the powers of that office to obstruct the investigation into his own misconduct.”
Not exactly. He wasn’t “caught” doing anything other than being president, but since the whistleblower law was actively abused by both the intelligence community’s inspector general and Schiff himself in his role as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, it wasn’t surprising that Trump used the powers of his office to push back against a coup attempt by members of Congress, intelligence agents and disgruntled bureaucrats who despise the outsider presidency foisted upon them by a rebellious electorate. Only in the minds of spurned “masters of the universe” does the lawful exercise of presidential power look like “obstruction of Congress.”
I could go on, point by point, to demonstrate how Schiff’s rhetoric masks his empty arsenal of facts, but why bother? If we learned anything last week from the wall-to-wall coverage of the impeachment trial, it is this — facts do not matter, nor does the truth. Adam Schiff has driven the country into a dark place where dissent is not allowed, where investigation of wrongdoing is abuse of power, and where self-defense is obstruction. I wish I could say that Alexander Hamilton would not recognize such a country, but in his genius he anticipated petty, deceitful minds such as that of Adam Schiff, who thought to hang his case against Trump on a quote by Hamilton, but instead is hung by him with this eloquent indictment:
“You bring everything to the standard of your narrow and depraved ideas, and you condemn without mercy or decency whatever does not accord with it. Every man who is too long or too short for your political couch must be stretched or lopped to suit it. … As to the love of liberty and Country you have given no stronger proofs of being actuated by it than I have done. Cease then to arrogate to yourself and to your party all the patriotism and virtue of the Country. Renounce if you can the intolerant spirit by which you are governed — and begin to reform yourself instead of reprobating others, by beginning to doubt of your own infallibility.”