Jan 24, 2020
Adam Schiff Friday Concluding Statement Transcript: Trump Impeachment Trial
Adam Schiff delivered a closing statement on January 24, 2020 at the Trump Impeachment Trial in the Senate. Read the full transcript of his speech right here.
Adam Schiff: (00:00)
Chief justice, senators, learned counsel for the president, you’ll be pleased to know this is the last presentation of the evening. And as I started last night, I made reference to some good advice I got from a encouraging voice that said, “Keep it up but not too long.” Tonight I got some equally good advice, “To be immortal, you don’t need to be eternal.” And I will do my best not to be eternally eternal. First point I’d like to make is I’m tired. I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted. And I can only imagine how you feel, but I’m also very deeply grateful for just how you have attended to these presentations and discussions over the last few days. I’m deeply grateful. I can tell how much consideration you’ve given to our point of view and the president’s point of view and that’s all we can ask. At the end of the day, all we can ask is that you hear us out and make the best judgment that you can consistent with your conscience and our constitution.
Adam Schiff: (01:24)
Now, I wanted to start out tonight with where we began when we first appeared before you about a week ago, and that is with the resolution itself. With what the president is charged with in the articles and how that holds up now that you have heard the evidence from the house. Donald Trump was impeached in article one for abuse of power. And that article provides that in his conduct of the Office of President of the United States and in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the Office of President of the United States and to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States, and is in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. Donald J. Trump has abused the powers of his presidency in that using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States presidential election. President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 election. That has been proved.
Adam Schiff: (02:47)
He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence 2020 US presidential election to his advantage. That has been proved. President Trump also sought to pressure the government of Ukraine to take these steps by conditioning official US government acts of significant value to Ukraine on its public announcement of the investigations. That has been proved. President Trump engaged in the scheme or course of conduct for corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal political benefit. That has been proved. In doing so, President Trump used the power of the presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process. That has been proved. He thus ignored and injured the interests of the nation. That has been proved.
Adam Schiff: (03:50)
President Trump engaged in the scheme or course of conduct through the following means. President Trump acting both directly and through his agents within and outside the United States government corruptly solicited the government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into, A, a political opponent, Former Vice President, Joseph R. Biden Jr. That has been proved. A discredited theory promoted by Russia alleging that Ukraine rather than Russia interfered in the 2016 United States presidential election. That has been proved. With the same corrupt motives, President Trump acting both directly and through his agents within and outside the US government conditioned to official acts on the public announcements that he had requested the release of $391 million of US taxpayer funds that Congress had appropriated on a bipartisan basis for the purpose of providing vital military and security assistance to Ukraine to oppose Russian aggression and which President Trump had ordered suspended. That has been proved.
Adam Schiff: (04:55)
And B, a head of state meeting at the White House, which the president of Ukraine sought to demonstrate continued United States support for the government of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. That has been proved. Faced with public revelation of his actions, President Trump ultimately released the military and security assistance to the government of Ukraine, but has persisted in openly and corruptly urging and soliciting Ukraine to undertake investigations for his personal political benefit. That has been proved. These actions were consistent with President Trump’s previous invitations of foreign interference in US elections. That has been proved.
Adam Schiff: (05:46)
In all of this, President Trump abused the powers of the presidency by ignoring and injuring national security and other vital national interests to obtain an improper personal political benefit. That has been proved. He also betrayed the nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections. That has been proved. Wherefore, President Trump by such conduct has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the constitution if allowed to remain in office and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self governments and the rule of law. That has been proved.
Adam Schiff: (06:32)
President Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States. That will be for you to decide. But the facts have been proved. Those facts are not contested. We have met our burden. Article two, obstruction of Congress. The constitution provides that the House of Representative shall have the sole power of impeachment and the president shall be removed from office on impeachment for and conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. In his conduct of the Office of the President, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the Office of President United States and to the best of his ability preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, Donald J. Trump has directed the unprecedented categorical and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives pursuant to its sole power of impeachment. That has been proved.
Adam Schiff: (07:53)
President Trump has abused the powers of the presidency in a manner offensive to and subversive of the constitution in that the House of Representatives has engaged in an impeachment inquiry focused on President Trump’s corrupt solicitation of the government of Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 US presidential election. That has been proved. As part of this impeachment inquiry, the committee’s undertaking the investigation served subpoenas seeking documents and testimony deemed vital to the inquiry for various executive branch agencies and offices and current and former officials. That has been proved. In response without lawful cause or excuse, President Trump directed executive branch agencies, offices and officials not to comply with those subpoenas. That has been proved. President Trump thus interpose the powers of the presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives and assume to himself functions and judgements necessary to exercise the sole power of impeachment vested in the constitution in the House of Representatives. That has been proved. President Trump abused the powers of his high office through the following means. Number one, directing the White House to defy a lawful subpoena by withholding the production of documents sought therein by the committees. That has been proved. Directing other executive branch agencies and offices to defy lawful subpoenas and withhold the production of documents and records from the committees in response to which the Department of State, the Office of Management Budget, Department of Energy and Department of Defense refused to produce a single record or document. That has been proved. Direct and current and former executive branch officials not to cooperate with the committees in response to which nine administration officials defied subpoenas for testimony namely John Michael Mick Mulvaney, Robert B. Blair, John A. Eisenberg, Michael Ellis, Preston Wells Griffith, Russell T. Vought, Michael Duffey, Brian McCormack and T. Ulrich Brechbuhl. That has been proved.
Adam Schiff: (10:03)
These actions were consistent with President Trump’s previous efforts to undermine United States government investigations into foreign interference in US elections. That has been proved. Through these actions, President Trump sought to arrogate himself the right to determine the propriety scope and nature of an impeachment inquiry into his own conduct, as well as the unilateral prerogative to deny any and all information to the House of Representatives in the exercise of its sole power of impeachment. That has been proved. In the history of the Republic, no president has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry or sought to obstruct and impede so comprehensively the ability of the House of Representatives to investigate high crimes and misdemeanors. That has been proved.
Adam Schiff: (10:59)
The abuse of office serve to cover up the president’s own repeated misconduct and to seize and control the power of impeachment and thus to nullify a vital safeguard vested solely in the House of Representatives. That has been proved. In all of this, President Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as president and subversive of constitutional government to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. That has been proved. Whereas or wherefore, President Trump by such conduct has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to the constitution if allowed to remain in office and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self government and the rule of law. That has been proved.
Adam Schiff: (11:55)
President Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States. That will be for you to determine. Let me say something about this second article. The facts of the president’s defiance of Congress are very simple because they were so uniform. Because they were so categorical. Because they are so uncontested, but too don’t mistake for a moment the fact that it was simple and easy and quick to present that course of conduct compared with a sophisticated campaign to coerce Ukraine into thinking that that second article is any less significant than the first. Do not believe that for a moment. If there is no article two, let me tell you something, there will never be an article one. If there’s no article two, there will never of any kind or shape or form be an article one. And why is that? Because if you and we lack the power to investigate a president, there will never be an article one. Whether that article one is abuse of power or that article one is treason or that article one is bribery, there will never be an article one if the Congress can’t investigate an impeachable offense.
Adam Schiff: (13:47)
If the Congress cannot because the president prevents it investigate the president’s own wrongdoing, there will never be an article one because there will be no more impeachment power. It will be gone. It will be gone. As I said before, our relationship with Ukraine will survive. God willing, our relationship with Ukraine will survive and Ukraine will prosper and we will get beyond this ugly chapter of our history. But if we are to decide here that a president of the United States can simply say under article two, “I can do whatever I want and I don’t have to treat a coequal branch of government like it exists. I don’t have to give it any more than the back of my hand.” That will be an unending injury to this country. Ukraine will survive and so will we, but that will be an unending injury to this country because the balance of power that our founders set out will never be the same. Will never be the same.
Adam Schiff: (15:18)
If a president can simply say, “I’m going to fight all subpoenas,” and I’ll tell you something else. Truism in the courts is just as true here in the Senate where they say justice delayed is justice denied. You give this president or any other the unilateral power to delay as long as he or she likes, to litigate matters for years and years in the courts and do not fool yourself into thinking it is anything less. In April, it will be a year since we subpoenaed Don McGahn and there is no sign of an end to that case. I’ll tell you, when it gets to the Supreme court, you might think that’s the end and that’s just the end of the first chapter because Don McGahn is in court saying, “I am absolutely immune from testimony.”
Adam Schiff: (16:14)
Now that’s been rejected by every court that’s looked at it. But we’ll see what the Court of Appeal says and then we’ll see if it goes to an en banc Court of Appeals. And then we’ll see what the Supreme Court says. And when we prevail on the Supreme Court, you know what happens? That’s not the end of the matter. It comes back to the trial court and then… Well, they can’t claim absolute immunity more. They can’t claim that… We don’t even have to bother showing up. So now we’re going to turn to plan B, executive privilege. We’re going to say we can’t and won’t answer any of the questions that are really pertinent to your impeachment inquiry. And let’s start out in district court and then go to the Court Appeals and then go en banc and then go to the Supreme Court. You can game the system for years. Justice delayed is justice denied and so is true about presidential accountability.
Adam Schiff: (17:08)
So when you suggest or I suggest or anyone suggests or the White House suggest, why doesn’t the Congress, why didn’t the house just exhaust their remedies as if in the constitution where it says, “The house shall have the sole power of impeachment.” There’s an asterisk that says, “After exhausting all court remedies and for seeking court in the district court and then seeking relief in the court of appeals and after that, go in the Supreme Court.” Let’s not kid ourselves about what that really means. What that really means is you allow the president to control the timing of his own impeachment or if it will ever be permitted to come before this body. That is not an impeachment power. That is the absence of an impeachment power. Article two is every bit as important as article one. Without article two, there is no article one ever again. No matter how egregious this president’s conduct or any other, it is fundamental to the separation of powers.
Adam Schiff: (18:17)
If you can’t have the ability to enforce an impeachment power, you might as well not put it in the constitution. Now, shortly, the president’s lawyers will have a chance to make their presentation and as we will not have the ability to respond to what they say, I want to give you a little preview of what I think they’re going to have in store for you so that when you do hear it, you can put it into some perspective. I expect that they will attack the process. I don’t think that’s any mystery, but I want to tell you both what I expect they will share it with you and what it really means. When you cut through all the chaff, what does it really mean that they’re saying? So here’s what I expect that they will tell you. The process was so unfair. It was the most unfair in the history of the world. Because of the house, they took depositions. How dare they take depositions? How dare they listen to Trey Gowdy? How dare they follow the Republican procedures that preceded their investigation? How dare they?
Adam Schiff: (19:34)
And they were so secret in the bunker, in the basement, as if whether it’s on the ground floor of the basement of the first floor makes any difference. Those super secret depositions in which only a hundred members of Congress equivalent to the entire Senate could participate. That’s how secret they were. That’s how exclusive they were. Every Democrat, every Republican on three committees could participate. Of course, that wasn’t enough so you had even more storm the SCIF. Right? So you have a hundred people can participate, but you heard earlier, but the Republicans weren’t allowed to participate. Okay. That’s just false. You know how we did it in those super secret depositions and you could look this up yourself because we released the transcripts. We got an hour. They got an hour. We got 45 minutes. They got 45 minutes. And we did that back and forth until everyone was done asking their questions.
Adam Schiff: (20:39)
Now, you’ll hear, “Oh, Chairman Schiff was so unfair. He wouldn’t allow us to ask our questions.” Well, there were certain questions I didn’t allow. Questions like, who’s the whistle blower? Because we want to punish that whistle blower. Because yes, some of us in this house and in this house believe we ought to protect whistle blowers. So yes, I did not allow the outing of the whistle blower. So when they say the chairman wouldn’t allow certain questions, that’s what they mean. That means that we protect people who have the courage to come forward and blow the whistle. That we don’t think, though the president might, that they’re traitors and spiced. To believe that someone who blows the whistle on misconduct of the serious nature that you now know took place is a traitor or a spy. There is only one way you can come to that conclusion. And that is if you believe you are the state and that anything that contradicts you is treason. That is the only way that you can conceive of someone who exposes wrongdoing is a trader or a spy. But that is exactly how this president views those who expose his wrongdoing because he is the state. Like any good Monarch, he is the state. And you’ll hear, “The president wasn’t allowed to participate in the judiciary committee.” Well, that’s false too as you’ve heard. The president had the same rights in our proceedings as President Nixon and President Clinton. But nonetheless, you’ll hear, “It was so unfair.” And one other thing that was really unfair is all the subpoenas were invalid because the house didn’t pass a resolution announcing its impeachment inquiry. Never mind that we actually did. The problem was they said, “Well, we hadn’t,” and then we did. And then the problem was, “Well, you did.”
Adam Schiff: (22:52)
Well, of course, as you know, the constitution says the house will have the sole power of impeachment. If we want to do it by house resolution, we can do it by house resolution.
Adam Schiff: (23:03)
If we want to do it by house resolution, we can do it by house resolution. If we want to do it by committee, we can do it by committee. It is not the President’s place to tell us how to conduct an impeachment proceeding any more than it is the President’s place to tell you how you should try it.
Adam Schiff: (23:19)
When you see that eight-page diatribe from the White House council saying, “We should have been able to have a resolution in the House,” or, “We should have been able to have this,” what you should hear, what they really mean is, Donald Trump had the right to control his own impeachment proceeding, and it’s an outrage that Donald Trump didn’t get to write the rules of his own impeachment proceeding in the House.
Adam Schiff: (23:44)
You give a president that right, there is no impeachment power. When you hear them say that, when you hear them complain about depositions that were the same as the Republicans, or the right to participate, that was the same in Clinton and Nixon. “By the way, they weren’t allowed to call witnesses,” they said. Three of the 12 witnesses that we heard at our open hearings were the minority witness requests.
Adam Schiff: (24:12)
You’ll hear those arguments, the most unfair and history. The fact is we had the same process. In those other impeachments, the majority did not surrender its subpoena power to the minority. You know what it did? It said, “You can subpoena witnesses, and if the majority doesn’t agree you can force a vote.” That is the same process we had here. The majority does not surrender its subpoena power. Didn’t in the prior impeachments, didn’t in this one. When they say the process was unfair, what they’re really mean is don’t look at what the President did. For God’s sake, don’t look at what the President did.
Adam Schiff: (24:53)
Now, you’ll also hear, I think the second thing you’ll hear from the President’s team is, “Attack the managers. Those managers are just awful. They’re terrible people. Especially that Schiff guy. He’s the worst. He’s the worst. Exhibit A, he mocked the President. He mocked the President. He mocked the President as if he was shaking down a leader of another country, like he was an organized crime figure. He mocked the President. He said it was like the President said, ‘Listen, Zelensky, because I’m only going to say this seven times.'”
Adam Schiff: (25:38)
I discovered something very significant by mocking the President. That is, for a man who loves to mock others, he does not like to be mocked. Turns out, he’s got a pretty thin skin. Who would’ve thought it? Nevermind that I said I wasn’t using his words before I said it, and I wasn’t using his words after I said it, and I said I was making a parody of his words. “It’s an outrage. He mocked the President. That Schiff, terrible.”
Adam Schiff: (26:12)
Now, they will attack my other colleagues too, for things said in the heat of debate here on the floor as we were reaching the wee hours of the morning. They’ll attack some of my colleagues who aren’t even in this chamber. Maybe they’ll attack the squad. That’s a perennial favorite with the President. If they attack the squad you should ask, “What does that have to do with the price of beans?” You can expect a tax on all kinds of members of the House that have nothing to do with the issues before you.
Adam Schiff: (26:49)
When you hear those attacks you should ask yourself, “Away from what do they want to distract my attention?” Nine times out of 10 it will be the President’s misconduct, but look for it. Attacks on the managers, attacks on other House members, attacks on the speaker, attacks on who knows what. It’s all of the same ilk. Whatever you do, just don’t consider the President’s misconduct.
Adam Schiff: (27:22)
You’ll also hear attacks on the constitution. Of course, it won’t be framed as an attack on the constitution, but that’s really what it represents. That is, abusive power doesn’t violate the constitution. Presidents of United States have every right to abuse their power. That’s the argument. Okay, I know it’s a hard argument to make, right? Presidents have a constitutional right to abuse their power, and how dare the House of Representatives charge a president with abusing his power.
Adam Schiff: (27:57)
Now, I’m looking forward to that constitutional argument by Alan Dershowitz, because I want to know why abusing power and trust is not impeachable now, but it was a few years ago. The last time I checked, I don’t think there was a significant change to the constitution between the time he said it was impeachable, and the time he’s saying now that apparently it is not impeachable. I’m looking forward to that argument, but I’m also looking forward to Ken Starr’s presentation. During the Clinton impeachment, he maintained that a president not only could, but must be impeached for obstructing justice. That Bill Clinton needed to be impeached because he lied under oath about sex, and to do so obstructed justice.
Adam Schiff: (28:52)
You can be impeached for obstructing justice, but you cannot be impeached for obstructing Congress. Now, I have to confess, I don’t know exactly how that’s supposed to work. The logical conclusion from that is, Ken Starr saying that Bill Clinton’s mistake was in showing up under subpoena. That Bill Clinton’s mistake was not saying, “I’m going to fight all subpoenas.” That Bill Clinton’s mistake was in not taking the position that under Article Two, he could do whatever he wanted. Does that really make any sense?
Adam Schiff: (29:37)
You can be impeached for obstructing your own branch of government, but you cannot be impeached for obstructing a co-equal branch of government. That would make no sense to the framers. I have to think, over the centuries as they’ve watched us, they would be astonished that anyone would take that argument seriously, or could so misapprehend how this balance of power is supposed to work. I look forward to that art argument.
Adam Schiff: (30:17)
Maybe when they make that argument they can explain to us why their position on abusive power isn’t even supported by their own attorney general. I hope they will answer why even their own attorney general doesn’t agree with them. Not to mention, by the way, the constitutional law expert called by the Republicans in the House who also testified as to abuse of power, that it is impeachable. That you don’t need a crime that’s impeachable.
Adam Schiff: (30:56)
Now, when you hear them make these arguments, cannot be impeached for abusing your power, this is what it really means. We cannot defend his conduct, and so we want to make it go all away without even having to think about that. You don’t even need to think about what the President did, because the House charged it wrong. So, don’t even consider what the President did. That’s what that argument means. We can’t defend the indefensible, so we have to fall back on, even if he abused his office, even if he did all the things he’s accused of, that’s perfectly fine. There’s nothing that can be done about it.
Adam Schiff: (31:44)
Now, you’ll also hear, as part of the defense, and you heard this from Jay Sekulow, was I think the last thing he said, “The whistleblower,” and then he stepped back to the table. The whistleblower. Now, I don’t really know what that meant, but I suspect you’ll hear more of that. The whistleblower. The whistleblower. It’s his, or her fault that we’re here. The whistleblower.
Adam Schiff: (32:13)
I would encourage you to read the whistleblower complaint again. When you read that complaint again, you will see just how remarkably accurate it is. It’s astonishingly accurate. For all the times the President is out there saying that the complaint was all wrong, “It was all wrong, you read it,” now that you have heard the evidence, you read it and you will see how remarkably right the whistleblower got it.
Adam Schiff: (32:44)
Now, when that complaint was filed, it was obviously before we had our depositions, and had our hearings. All of which obviated the need for the whistleblower. In the beginning we wanted the whistleblower to come and testify, because all we knew about was the complaint. Then, we were able to hear from firsthand witnesses about what happened, and then something else happened. the President and his allies began threatening the whistleblower, and the life of the whistleblower was at risk. What was the point in exposing that whistleblower to the risk of his, or her life when we had the evidence we needed? What was the point, except retribution. Retribution, and the President wants it still.
Adam Schiff: (33:38)
You know why the President is mad at the whistleblower? Because, but for the whistleblower, he wouldn’t have been caught, and that is an unforgivable sin. He is the State and but for the whistleblower, the President wouldn’t have been caught. For that, he’s a spy and he’s guilty of treason. Now, what does he add to this? Nothing, but retribution. A pound of flesh. You’ll also hear the President’s defense, “They hate the President. They hate the President. You should not consider the presence misconduct because they hate the President.” Now, what I have said, I leave you to your own judgments about the President. I only hate what he’s done to this country. I grieve for what he’s done to this country. When they make the argument to you that this is only happening because they hate the President, it is just another of the myriad forms of, please do not consider what the President did. Whether you like the President, or you dislike the President is immaterial. It’s all about the constitution, and his misconduct. If it meets the standard of impeachable conduct as we approved, it doesn’t matter what you like him. It doesn’t matter what you dislike him. What matters is whether he is a danger to the country, because he will do it again. None of us can have confidence, based on his record, that he will not do it again because he is telling us every day that he will.
Adam Schiff: (35:50)
Now, you’ll hear the further defense that Biden is corrupt. That Joe Biden is corrupt, that Hunter Biden is corrupt. This is their defense. This’ll be another defense, because what they hope to achieve in the Senate trial is what they couldn’t achieve through their scheme. If they couldn’t get Ukraine to smear the Bidens, they want to use this trial to do it instead. Let’s call Hunter Biden. Let’s smear the Bidens. Let’s succeed in the trial with what we couldn’t do with this scheme. That’s the goal.
Adam Schiff: (36:36)
Now, I don’t know whether Rudy Giuliani, who said he was going to present his report to some of the senators has presented his report. Maybe he has. Maybe you’ll get to see what’s in Rudy Giuliani’s report. Maybe you’ll get to see some documents smearing the Bidens produced by… who knows. Maybe these same Russian corrupt former prosecutors. Make no mistake about what that’s about. It’s about completing the object of the scheme through other means, through the means of this trial.
Adam Schiff: (37:22)
You may hear the argument that what the President is doing when he is obstructing Congress is protecting the office for future presidents, because there is nothing more important to Donald Trump than protecting the office of the presidency for future presidents. I supposed, when he withheld military aid from Ukraine he was trying to protect future presidents. When he sought to coerce a foreign power to intervene in our election, he was doing it on behalf of future presidents, because future presidents might likewise wish to cheat in a further election. I don’t think that argument goes very far, but I expect you’ll hear it. I expect you’ll hear it.
Adam Schiff: (38:20)
You may hear an argument that the President was really concerned about corruption, and he was concerned about burden sharing. I won’t spend much time on that because you’ve heard the evidence on that. There is no indication that this had anything to do with corruption in every, every bit of evidence that it had nothing to do with fighting corruption, or burden sharing. Indeed, nothing about the burden changed between the time he froze the aide and the time he released the aid. There was no new effort to get others to contribute more, and Europe contributes a great deal as it is. This is an after-the-fact rationalization.
Adam Schiff: (39:03)
You probably saw the public reporting that there was an exhaustive effort after the fact to come up with a post-talk rationalization for this scheme. I would like to show you the product of that investigation, but I’ll need your help because it is among the documents they refuse to turn over. They will show you just what an after- the-fact invention this argument is.
Adam Schiff: (39:37)
Now, I expect you’ll hear the argument, “Obama did it. Obama did it.” Now, that may take several different forms, but the form of Obama did it that I’m referring to is, Obama also withheld aid. Honestly, I think that argument is an insult to our intelligence because the argument is, Obama withheld aid from Egypt, and he made a condition with it. Obama withheld aid from Egypt after they had a revolution, and circumstances change. You know something? He didn’t hide it from Congress. In fact, Congress supported it. Yes, there are times when we withhold aid for a good policy reason. Not a corrupt effort to get help in your election. The American people know the difference between right and wrong. They can recognize the difference between aid that is withheld for a malicious purpose, and aid that is held in the best interest of our national security. But, you’ll hear the Obama did it argument.
Adam Schiff: (40:49)
You will hear the call was perfect. You’ll hear the call was perfect. Now, I suspect the reason they will make the argument the call was perfect is because the President insists that they do. I don’t think they really want to have to make that argument. You wouldn’t either, but they have a client to represent and so they will make the argument, the call was perfect.
Adam Schiff: (41:22)
They will also make the argument, Ukraine thinks the call was perfect. Ukraine says there was no pressure. What that really means is Ukraine wants a future, Ukraine knows it’s still beholden to us for aid, Ukraine still hasn’t gotten in through the door of the White House. Ukraine knows that if they acknowledge that they were shaken down by the President of the United States, the President United States will make them pay. When you hear them say, Ukraine felt no pressure and their proof is because the Ukraine president doesn’t want to call the President the United States a bad name, you’ll know why. Because they need America. They need America. The framers did not expect you to leave your common sense at the door. Now, you’ll also hear the defense, “the President said there was no quid pro quo.” the President said there was no quid pro quo. I guess that’s the end of the story. This is a well-known principle of criminal law, that if the defendant says he didn’t do it, he couldn’t have done it. If the defendant learns that he’s been caught and he says he didn’t do it, he couldn’t have done it. That doesn’t hold up in any court in the land. It shouldn’t hold up here.
Adam Schiff: (43:12)
You also hear a variation of the argument, “No harm, no foul.” They got the money. They got the money, and they got the meeting even though they didn’t. They got the meeting on the sideline of the UN. It was kind of a drive by, but they got a meeting. No harm, no foul, right? A meeting on the sidelines is pretty much the same thing, right? As a head of state meeting in the Oval Office? of course it’s not. Why do you think at that meeting at the United Nations, the President of Ukraine was still saying, “Hey, when am I going to get to come to town?” He certainly recognizes the difference, and we should too.
Adam Schiff: (43:53)
What’s more, there’s every bit of harm, every bit of foul in withholding aid from an ally at war, and releasing it only when you’re caught. Russia knows now about the wedge in our relations with Ukraine. The moment Russia found out about this, and I have to imagine, given how good their intel services are they did not have to wait for Politico to break the story any more than Ukraine did. In fact, there’s so deep a penetration of Ukraine. I would have to expect the Russians would have found out at least as early as the Ukrainians did, if not earlier. The moment Ukraine learned, and Russia learned, there was harm because Ukraine knew they couldn’t trust us, Russia knew they could take advantage of us. There was immediate harm. Because someone is caught, because a scheme is thwarted, doesn’t make that scheme any less criminal, and corrupt. You get no pass when you get caught.
Adam Schiff: (45:20)
I expect one of the defenses you’ll see is, they will play you certain testimony from the House where my colleagues on the other side of the aisle ask questions like, “Did the President ever say he was bribing Ukraine? Did you ever see him actually bribe Ukraine? Did you hear him say that he was going to bribe Ukraine? Did you personally see this yourself? If you didn’t see it, if he didn’t lay it out for you, then it couldn’t have happened. Two plus two does not equal four.” You are not allowed to consider anything except for a televised…
Adam Schiff: (46:03)
You are not allowed to consider anything except for a televised confession by the president, and even then, don’t consider it. So, I imagine you’ll hear some of that testimony where witnesses are asked, they work for the defense department. Well, did the president ever tell you that he was conditioning the aid? Nevermind that these are people, don’t necessarily even talk to the president, but I’ll expect you’ll see some of that. As I mentioned before, you’ll hear the defense, we claim privilege.
Adam Schiff: (46:45)
You can’t impeach the president over the exercise of privilege. Nevermind the fact that they never claimed privilege. They never asserted privilege. And you know why? You know why they never actually invoked privilege in the house? Is because they know that if they did, they’d have to produce the documents and they’d have to show what they were redacting and they didn’t want to do even that. They knew the overwhelming majority of the documents and witness testimony, there was no even colorable claim of privilege. So, they didn’t want to even invoke it. All they would say is maybe someday. But you will hear that you can’t be impeached for a claim of privilege they never made.
Adam Schiff: (47:50)
So, what do all these defenses mean? What do they mean? What do they mean collectively when you add them all up? What they mean is under Article Two, the president can do whatever he wants. That’s really it. That’s really it, stripped of all the detail and all the histrionics. What they want us to believe is the president can do whatever he wants under Article Two and there is nothing that you or the House can do about it.
Adam Schiff: (48:28)
Robert Kennedy once said, “Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential vital quality for those who seek to change the world which yields most painfully to change. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle.” I have to say, when I first read that, I wasn’t sure I agreed. Moral courage is a rarer quality than courage in battle, that just doesn’t seem right. I wasn’t sure I really agreed and for a democrat not to agree with a Kennedy is kind of a heresy. I’m sure some of my GOP colleagues feel the same way about the Kennedy’s from Louisiana.
Adam Schiff: (49:23)
After all, what could be more brave than courage in battle? What could be more rare than courage in battle? But then, I got to visit, as I know all of you have, our service members around the world and see just how blessed we are with an abundance of heroes by the millions who have joined the service of this country. Service members who every day demonstrate the most incredible bravery. I just have the greatest respect for them, for people like Jason Crow and John McCain and Daniel Inouye and so many others who’ve served in this body and the other or who’ve never served in office. By the millions all around the country and all around the world. Most incredible respect.
Adam Schiff: (50:14)
It’s an amazing thing how common is their uncommon bravery. My father is 92, he’s probably watching. He’s part of the greatest generation, left high school early to join the service. He tried to enlist in the Marine Corp and he failed the physical. So, at the end of World War II, failed the physical. Bad eyesight and flat feet, which was apparently enough to fail the physical. So, two weeks later he went to try to enlist in the Army, thinking that maybe it’s a different physical standard and even if it isn’t, maybe I’ll get a different examining physician.
Adam Schiff: (50:56)
Turns out, same standard, same physician. He recognized my father and he said, “Weren’t you here two weeks ago?” And my father said, “Yeah.” He said, “You really want to get in that bad?” My father said, “Yeah.” And he was in the Army. Now the war was over and so he never left the United States. When he left the service, he went to the University of Alabama and about midway through he wanted to get on with his life and he left college and went out into the business world, something he always regretted, leaving college early.
Adam Schiff: (51:40)
I think in many ways, he got a better education than I did. I think that I was lucky to get a good education, but I think those like Jason and others who served in the military and also went to school, got the best education, because I think there’s certain things you can only learn by being in the military. Certainly, you can’t really learn, I think, about war without going to war and maybe there are things you just can’t learn about life without going to war.
Adam Schiff: (52:26)
So, those of you that have served have the most complete education I think there is. Even so, is moral courage really more rare than that on the battlefield? Then I saw what Robert Kennedy meant by moral courage. Few, he said, are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues and the wrath of their society. Then I understood by that measure just how rare moral courage is. How many of us are willing to brave the disapproval of our fellows, the censure of our colleagues and the wrath of our society?
Adam Schiff: (53:23)
Just as those who have served in uniform can’t fully understand, those who have not served in uniform can’t fully understand what military service means. So to there is a different kind of fraternity or sorority among those who have served in office. I always tell my constituents there are two kinds of jobs in congress and it’s not Democrats and Republicans. It’s those from a safe seat and those from an unsafe seat. I’m sure the same is true of those from a safe state and an unsafe state. It’s why I think there’s a certain chemistry between members who represent those swing districts and states, because they can step into each others shoes.
Adam Schiff: (54:05)
One of the things that we in this fellowship of office holders understand that most people don’t is that real political courage doesn’t come from disagreeing with our opponents but from disagreeing with our friends and with our own party, because it means having to stare down accusations of disloyalty and betrayal. He’s a Democrat name only or she’s a Republican in name only.
Adam Schiff: (54:43)
What I said last night, if it resonated with anyone in this chamber, didn’t require courage. My views, as heartfelt as they are, reflect the views of my constituents. But what happens when our heartfelt views of right and wrong are in conflict with the popular opinion of our constituents? What happens when our devotion to our oaths, to our values, to our love of country, depart from the momentary passion of a large number of people back home? Those are the times that try our souls.
Adam Schiff: (55:37)
CBS news reported last night that a Trump confidante said that GOP senators were warned, “Vote against your president, vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.” Now, I don’t know if that’s true. Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike. I have to say, when I read that, and again, I don’t know if that’s true, but when I read that I was struck by the irony. I hope it’s not true. I hope it’s not true. But I was struck by the irony of the idea when we’re talking about a president who would make himself a monarch, that whoever that was would use the terminology of a penalty that was opposed by a monarch. A head on a pike.
Adam Schiff: (56:39)
Just this week, America lost a hero, Thomas Railsback. He passed away on Monday, the day before this trial began. Some of you may have known or even served with congressman Thomas Railsback, he was a Republican from Illinois and a second ranking member on the house judiciary committee when that committee was conducting its impeachment inquiry into President Nixon.
Adam Schiff: (57:05)
In July of 1974 as the inquiry was coming to a close Congressman Railsback began meeting with a bipartisan group of members of the house, three other Republicans and three Democrats. Here in the Senate, they might have called them the gang of seven. They gathered and they talked and they labored over language and ultimately helped develop a bipartisan support for the articles that led a group of Republican Senators, including Barry Goldwater and Howard Baker, to tell President Nixon that he must resign.
Adam Schiff: (57:38)
Some say that the Nixon impeachment might not have moved forward were it not for those four courageous Republicans led by Congressman Railsback and it pained the congressman because he credited Nixon with giving him his seat, with getting him elected. He did it because he said, “Because seeing all the evidence, it was something we had to do because the evidence was there.” One of his aids, Ray LaHood, eulogized him saying, “He felt an obligation to the constitution to do what is right.”
Adam Schiff: (58:19)
Now soon, members of this body will face the most momentous of decisions. Not as I said at the outset, between guilt and innocence, but a far more foundational issue. Should there be a fair trial? Shall the House be able to present its case with witnesses and documents through the use of subpoenas as has been case in every impeachment trial in history? Now the president’s lawyers have been their case outside of this chamber, threatening to stall these proceedings with the assertion of false claims of privilege. Having persuaded this body to postpone consideration of the witnesses and documents, they now appear to be preparing the ground to say it will be too late to consider them next week.
Adam Schiff: (59:16)
Consider this, of the hundreds of documents that we have subpoenaed, there is no colorable claim and none has been asserted. To the degree that you can even make a claim, that claim has been waived. To the degree that even superficially a claim would attach, it does not conceal misconduct. What’s more, to the degree that there were a dispute over whether a privilege applied, we have a perfectly good judge sitting behind me, empowered by the rules of this body to resolve those disputes. When the Chief Justice decides, where a narrow application of privilege ought to apply, you will still have the power to overrule him. How often do you get the chance to overrule a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court? You have to admit, it’s every legislators dream. So, let us not be fooled by the argument that it will take too long or persuaded that the trial must be over before the State of the Union. This is no parking ticket we are contesting, no shoplifting case we are prosecuting. It is a matter of high crimes and misdemeanors. How long is too long to have a fair trial? Fair to the president and fair to the American people.
Adam Schiff: (01:00:58)
The American people do not agree on much, but they will not forgive being deprived of the truth and certainly not because it took a backseat to expediency. In his pamphlet of 1777, The American Crisis, Thomas Payne wrote, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” Is it too much fatigue to call witnesses and have a fair trial? Are the blessings of freedom so meager that we will not endure the fatigue of a real trial with witnesses and documents.
Adam Schiff: (01:01:49)
President Lincoln in his closing message to congress in December 1862 said this, “Fellow citizens we cannot escape history. We of this congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us the fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation.” I think he was the most interesting president in history. He may be the most interesting person in our history. This man who started out dirt poor, dirt poor like hundreds of thousands of other people at the time, he had nothing. No money, no education, he educated himself. Educate himself, but he had a brain in that head, a brilliance in that mind, that made him one of the most incredible, not just presidents, but people in history. I think he’s the most interesting character in our history. Out of the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of other Americans at the time, why him? Why him?
Adam Schiff: (01:03:19)
I think a lot about history, as I know you do. Sometimes I think about how unforgiving history can be of our conduct. We can do a lifetimes work, draft the most wonderful legislation, help our constituents and yet we may be remembered for none of that, but for a single decision, we may be remembered, effecting the course of our country. I believe this may be one of those moments. A moment we never thought we would see. A moment when our democracy was gravely threatened and not from without but from within.
Adam Schiff: (01:03:59)
Russia too has a constitution. It’s not a bad constitution, it’s just a meaningless one. In Russia, they have trial by telephone. They have the same ostensible rights we do to a trial, they hear evidence and witnesses, but before the verdict is rendered, the judge picks up the telephone and calls the right person to find out how it’s supposed to turn out. Trial by telephone. Is that what we have here, trial by telephone? Someone on the other end of the phone dictating what this trial should look like.
Adam Schiff: (01:04:49)
The founders gave us more than words. They gave us inspiration. They may have receded into mythology but they inspire us still and more than us, they inspire the rest of the world. They inspire the rest of the world. From their prison cells in Turkey, journalists look to us. From their internment camps in China, they look to us. From their cells in Egypt, those who gathered in Tahrir Square for a better life, look to us. From the Philippines, those that were the victims and their families of mass extrajudicial killing, they look to us. From Elgin prison, they look to us. From all over the world, they look to us.
Adam Schiff: (01:05:42)
Increasingly, they don’t recognize what they see. It’s a terrible tragedy for them, it is a worst tragedy for us, because there’s no where else for them to turn. They’re not going to turn to Russia, they’re not going to turn to China, they’re not going to turn to Europe with all of its problems. They look to us because we are still the indispensable nation. They look to us because we have a rule of law. They look to us because no one is above that law. One of the things that separates us from those people in Elgin Prison is the right to a trial. It’s a right to a trial. Americans get a fair trial. So I ask you, I implore you, give America a fair trial. Give America a fair trial. She’s worth it. Thank you.