Rep. Adam Schiff interrupted a Republican questioner during Wednesday’s impeachment hearing to instruct the witness on how to answer — or not answer — questions.
Steve Castor, the Republicans’ counsel for the hearing, was in the middle of grilling Bill Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine. Castor asked whether Taylor believed President Donald Trump was genuinely concerned that Ukrainian officials were seeking to undermine his presidency.
After initially claiming not to know what Trump thought on the matter, Taylor acknowledged he heard the president “had concerns about the Ukrainians, yes.”
Castor went on to list a number of instances in which Ukrainian officials and former officials had said “very unkind things” about Trump and “conferred” with Democrats.
“You certainly can appreciate that President Trump was very concerned that some elements of the Ukrainian establishment were not in favor of him, did not support him and were out to get him,” Castor said.
That’s when Schiff, a California Democrat and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, which is leading the impeachment inquiry, interjected.
“And I’ll allow the question —,” he started to say.
“Parliamentary inquiry: Are you seriously interrupting our time here?” Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the committee, asked.
“I will allow the question. I won’t dock this from the time,” Schiff said, before turning back to Taylor.
“I just want to be clear, ambassador. If you’re able to verify the things that counsel has asked you in the prerequisite to that’s fine,” he said. “Otherwise, in questions from the majority or the minority that may assume facts in evidence before you, you should be cautioned about that.”
Taylor nodded and smiled, while Nunes was seen laughing in apparent disbelief.
🚨HOLY, WOW 🚨
Rep. Adam Schiff is blocking/interrupting GOP questions while telling witnesses how to answer.
GOP asks about Ukraine trying to help Hillary win election.
Schiff jumps in and tells witnesses they don't have to answer GOP questions.
This is a third-world coup! pic.twitter.com/Hklsrph2Cw
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) November 13, 2019
Republicans hit back
However, Rep. John Lee Ratcliffe was not amused. After demanding a “point of order,” the Texas Republican said that if Schiff planned to run the impeachment hearing like a courtroom trial, Ratcliffe would have plenty of his own objections about the Democrats’ counsel, Daniel Goldman.
“Chairman, I sat here through the first 45 minutes and literally had an objection to almost the foundation of every question that Mr. Goldman asked regarding facts not in evidence, leading,” Ratcliffe said. “If it is your position that I should be asserting objections to questions that violate the federal rules of evidence, let me know now because this hearing’s gonna change significantly.”
Schiff quickly backed down, replying: “As I said, Mr. Ratcliffe, I’ll allow the question.”
Not the first time Adam Schiff allegedly coaches a witness
Trump and his allies have repeatedly criticized Schiff for allegedly stage-managing the impeachment process, preventing Republicans from being heard and denying the president and the public justice.
In a fiery November press conference, Republican Reps. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio said that Schiff had shut down a Republican line of questioning during a closed-door hearing with Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who serves as a director on the National Security Council.
On the same day, Nunes appeared on Fox News’ “Hannity” and accused Schiff of “coaching” Vindman. He called the impeachment process under Schiff and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California “unprecedented.”
Also, in October, Schiff was forced to admit that his staff gave the whistleblower advice on filing the complaint that kick-started the impeachment process. Having previously denied communicating with the whistleblower, Schiff later acknowledged he should “have been much more clear.”
In the Aug. 12 intelligence community complaint, the whistleblower flagged a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He worried that by pressing Zelensky to investigate his domestic political rivals, Trump had compromised U.S. national security.
Hours after the White House released a rough transcript of the call on Sept. 25, Pelosi announced the House was launching the impeachment inquiry. Democrats went on to hold weeks of closed-door hearings, following which testimony was selectively leaked. Last Tuesday, they announced they would start public hearings this week.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and slammed Democrats for trying to oust him from office. He has joined Republican lawmakers in demanding that the identity of the whistleblower be revealed. The president has also accused Schiff of “helping to write” the whistleblower’s complaint.
For his part, Schiff has continued to deny collaborating with the whistleblower or any of the witnesses. During Wednesday’s hearing, he repeated his claim not to even know who the whistleblower is.