Early Thursday, after Donald Trump called on Adam Schiff to resign, we delivered the following assessment of what we believe is likely to become an extremely tenuous situation for the House Intelligence Chairman:
Can Trump actually force Schiff out? Two weeks ago that would have been a laughable question. But now, who knows. As a reminder, the Trump campaign’s communications director sent out an advisory “memo” earlier this week addressed to “television producers” laying out what amounted to the conditions under which Schiff, Nadler and others will be allowed on TV again following the Mueller report.
Schiff’s efforts to lead a reinvigorated probe into whether Trump and/or his businesses are unduly influenced by foreign governments is in jeopardy following William Barr’s summary of the Mueller report, which exonerates Trump and his campaign with regard to conspiring with Russia in the Kremlin’s well-documented efforts to influence the 2016 election.
Last year, around the same time Devin Nunes was pushing his “Memogate” narrative, the same committee wrapped a similar investigation, concluding that no collusion had in fact occurred. Schiff’s probe is essentially the same investigation, reborn thanks to the House flipping during the midterms. You’re reminded that even the Nunes probe concurred with the Intelligence Community Assessment’s judgments with regard to Russia’s malign activities, something Trump has yet to definitively endorse.
Well, in a testament to our contention that Trump may in fact be able to imperil Schiff’s standing on the Hill despite his (Adam’s) party controlling the House, all nine of the committee’s Republican members submitted a letter calling for Schiff’s resignation. Here is that letter:
To be clear, Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff’s feud reached epic levels of contentiousness around this time last year. In fact, that feud became so farcical that we (and others) were actually happy to see the committee’s probe end just so the mud-slinging between the two men would abate.
That said, Nunes was clearly involved in Trump’s efforts to undermine any and all investigations into the campaign – in fact, Devin became something of a standing joke a long time ago. His decision to sue a make-believe cow didn’t do anything to improve that situation.
But as much as all of the signatories to Thursday’s letter might despise Schiff, there was a palpable sense of guilt in the room when Schiff delivered his response – and that sense of guilt did not emanate from Adam. Here is the clip:
Schiff would go on to say that while he accepts the conclusions of the special counsel report, the actions described in that clip (all of which, by the way, are statements of fact) remain wholly unacceptable in his opinion. Specifically, Schiff said this:
Here it is again:
You might say that’s all OK. You might say that’s just what you need to do to win. But I don’t think it’s okay. I think it’s immoral. I think it’s unethical. And I think it is unpatriotic. And yes, I think it is corrupt. And evidence of collusion.
Of course it is impossible to argue with any of that. Unless Republicans want to suggest that any of the conduct that Schiff described is in fact “Ok”, well then, what exactly is the rejoinder? Maybe this: “Well, fine, Adam, but it’s not ‘collusion'”.
Everyone (Republicans included) know that none of this is “ok”, but they (Republicans) are either pot-committed (e.g., Nunes and Lindsey Graham) or else are more concerned about their own survival (figuratively speaking) post-Mueller than they are about trying to “prove” something that Mueller couldn’t prove.
And so, Republicans will dutifully fall in line. Only now, that means something different than it did previously. Previously, GOP’ers were willing to look the other way as Trump demeaned the office and embarrassed himself (and the country) by habitually demonstrating a generalized lack of decorum. That willingness to let him slide was in the service of achieving key GOP goals, with the tax cuts being the most obvious example. Later, the excuse for pandering to Trump was that Republicans needed his notoriously fervent base for the midterms.
Now, by contrast, Republicans are calling for the resignation (as committee chair, but you can expect the calls for Schiff to leave Congress altogether to get louder) of Trump’s political rivals in order to make sure nobody on the Hill ever speaks about the campaign’s ties to Moscow again. The letter shown above was sent just hours after Trump’s Thursday morning tweet calling for Schiff’s resignation.
How long is it going to be before Republicans demand the resignation of other Democratic lawmakers for matters that have nothing to do with the Russia probe? And, perhaps more germane for the GOP, how long after that will it be before Trump compels loyalists to demand that other Republicans resign if they fail to back him on something like, say, the border wall?
Those are questions that Republicans need to start asking themselves if they aren’t already.
Meanwhile, the Mueller report is said to be in excess of 300 pages.