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Under partisan fire, Adam Schiff presents his case without apology

Under intense partisan fire, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff did something unexpected: he presented his "collusion" case in a five-minute speech.
Image: Devin Nunes, Eric Swalwell, Jim Himes
From left, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., rear, and Rep. Eric...

Politico reported earlier this week that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is confronting "a withering Republican assault." Three days later, the assault is quite a bit more ferocious.

Donald Trump this morning insisted that the California Democrat acted "unlawfully" -- the president didn't say which laws Schiff allegedly broke -- and "should be forced to resign from Congress." A few hours later, every Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, which used to be a relatively non-partisan panel, issued a letter calling on Schiff to surrender the chairman's gavel.

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) then read the letter aloud during a committee hearing.

Given the intensity of the GOP crusade, one might assume that Schiff has been caught up in a horrible scandal, perhaps even facing a criminal indictment. But what's bewildering about the offensive is its inanity: the Republican outrage that's been manufactured out of whole cloth.

Schiff's unforgivable misdeed was arguing that there was coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016 -- an assertion Republicans believe has been discredited by the Mueller report, despite the fact that they have no idea whether the Mueller report supports their argument or not.

To his credit, the Intelligence Committee chair, who seems to realize he's done nothing wrong, isn't backing down. On the contrary, he's sticking to his guns and doing his best to remind everyone, friend and foe alike, that the arguments he's made and the evidence he's pointed to remains fully intact.

It was against this backdrop that Schiff laid out his case during this morning's Intelligence Committee hearing, shortly after the panel's GOP members called for his ouster.

I'm going to quote the remarks at length, because I think the details are relevant to the larger debate:

"My colleagues might think it's OK that the Russians offered dirt on the Democratic candidate for president as part of what's described as the Russian government's effort to help the Trump campaign. You might think that's OK.

"My colleagues might think it's OK that when that was offered to the son of the president, who had a pivotal role in the campaign, that the president's son did not call the FBI; he did not adamantly refuse that foreign help -- no, instead that son said that he would 'love' the help with the Russians.

"You might think it's OK that he took that meeting. You might think it's OK that Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, someone with great experience running campaigns, also took that meeting. You might think it's OK that the president's son-in-law also took that meeting. You might think it's OK that they concealed it from the public. You might think it's OK that their only disappointment after that meeting was that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn't better. You might think that's OK.

"You might think it's OK that when it was discovered, a year later, that they then lied about that meeting and said that it was about adoptions. You might think that it's OK that it was reported that the president helped dictate that lie. You might think that's OK. I don't.

"You might think it's OK that the campaign chairman of a presidential campaign would offer information about that campaign to a Russian oligarch in exchange for money or debt forgiveness. You might think that's OK, I don't.

"You might think it's OK that that campaign chairman offered polling data to someone linked to Russian intelligence. I don't think that's OK.

"You might think it's OK that the president himself called on Russia to hack his opponent's emails, if they were listening. You might think it's OK that later that day, in fact, the Russians attempted to hack a server affiliated with that campaign. I don't think that's OK.

"You might think it's OK that the president's son-in-law sought to establish a secret back channel of communication with the Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility. I don't think that's OK.

"You might think it's OK that an associate of the president made direct contact with the GRU through Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks, that is considered a hostile intelligence agency. You might think it's OK that a senior campaign official was instructed to reach that associate and find out what that hostile intelligence agency had to say in terms of dirt on his opponent.

"You might think it's OK that the national security adviser designate secretly conferred with the Russian ambassador about undermining U.S. sanctions, and you might think it's OK that he lied about it to the FBI.

"You might say that's all OK, that's just what you need to do to win. But I don't think it's OK. I don't think it's OK. I think it's immoral, I think it's unethical, I think it's unpatriotic and, yes, I think it's corrupt -- and evidence of collusion."

"Now I have always said that the question of whether this amounts to proof of conspiracy was another matter. Whether the special counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt the proof of that crime would be up to the special counsel, and I would accept his decision, and I do. He's a good and honorable man, and he is a good prosecutor.

"But I do not think that conduct, criminal or not, is OK. And the day we do think that's OK is the day we will look back and say that is the day that America lost its way."

"And I will tell you one more thing that is apropos of the hearing today: I don't think it's OK that during a presidential campaign Mr. Trump sought the Kremlin's help to consummate a real estate deal in Moscow that would make him a fortune -- according to the special counsel, hundreds of millions of dollars. I don't think it's OK to conceal it from the public. I don't think it's OK that he advocated a new and more favorable policy towards the Russians even as he was seeking the Russians' help, the Kremlin's help to make money. I don't think it's OK that his attorney lied to our committee. There is a different word for that than collusion, and it's called 'compromise.'

"And that is the subject of our hearing today."

Each of the factual points the chairman raised are supported by evidence, and as best as I can tell, none of the factual assertions have been contested by Trump, any of his allies, or the contents of Attorney General Bill Barr's memo.

In theory, this should represent the end of the Republican tantrum over Adam Schiff.