‘The president didn’t need to say, ‘that’s a nice country you have, it would be a shame if something happened to it,’ because that was clear from the conversation…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) With echoes of the humiliating failures of the Mueller Report likely fresh in their minds, partisan Democratic leaders scrambled to spin the narrative surrounding the release of a transcript between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Trump’s supporters, including Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham, R-SC, expressed surprise with the lack of substance in the over-hyped report that pointed to evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors”—the standard for Congress to apply in filing articles of impeachment.
However, one of the ringleaders of the impeachment effort, House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who last year campaigned heavily and raised funds on the promise of impeaching the president did his best to move the goalposts, likening it to a “Mafia shakedown” in which the criminality could be inferred from the tone if not the actual words spoken.
“Like any Mafia boss, the president didn’t need to say, ‘that’s a nice country you have, it would be a shame if something happened to it,’ because that was clear from the conversation,” Schiff told reporters in a press conference Wednesday.
Democrats in the House, claiming that Trump had coerced Zelenskiy to reopen a corruption investigation that was linked to former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, formally launched an impeachment proceeding Tuesday, despite the lack of direct evidence.
They had claimed there was a link between Trump’s withholding of an estimated $400 million in military funding to Ukraine and his efforts to see the Bidens investigated. However, no clear discussion of the military funding appeared in the transcript of the half-hour call, and Biden’s name was used only twice.
“There is no quid pro quo necessary to betray your country or your oath of office,” Schiff said, using the Latin term for a reciprocal exchange of favors or goods. “Even though many read this as a quid pro quo, I’m not concerned whether it is a quid pro quo or not.”
The elder Biden, a current frontrunner in the Democratic primary to take on Trump in next year’s presidential election, admitted last year to making a quid pro quo threat to the previous Ukrainian administration.
He told an audience during a panel discussion hosted by the the firing of a prosecutor who was investigating energy company Burisma, which had Hunter Biden on its payroll.
From the discussion in the transcript, the two leaders appeared to be in mutual agreement that removing the corrupt prosecutor who dropped the investigation of Burisma was crucial in “restor[ing] the honesty” of the Ukrainian government, according to Zelenskiy.
But Schiff, in his press conference, sought to paint a different picture of the cordial exchange.
“Ukraine understood exactly what was being asked of it,” he claimed. “Ukraine understood exactly what they needed from the United States, and that a president of the United States would interfere with our national security, would interfere with the national security of our ally and do so for the illicit purpose of trying to advance his election campaign.”
Republican House Leaders criticized Schiff in their own press conference on Tuesday morning, recalling the California liberal’s previous falsehoods about impeachable evidence in the Mueller investigation.
Schiff “looked into a camera and said he had proof,” recalled House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
Schiff played a central role in the engineering of the impeachment scandal after Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community, sent a letter flagging his concerns with a whistleblower report.
Atkinson had reached out previously to the Justice Department and director of national intelligence but had gotten little traction with the Trump allies.
Democrats, meanwhile, faced grim prospects in their dying drive to keep their campaign promise of impeachment alive.
At a hearing last week, former Trump campaign chair Corey Lewandowski embarrassed Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, who already had declared the impeachment process underway, deepening a rift with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
After the news broke of the whistleblower claims, Schiff and Pelosi reportedly met multiple times over the weekend to coordinate their messaging on impeachment.
With the call transcript yielding little to support their efforts, Schiff has focused on new demands for the whistleblower complaint to be declassified and hopes to have the still-anonymous individual testify before the Intelligence Committee as early as Thursday.
He also expects Joseph Maguire, acting director of national intelligence, to appear in open session before the committee on Thursday, reported Axios.