Rep. Adam Schiff on Sept. 17 denied communicating with the whistleblower who filed a complaint about President Donald Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.
On the “Morning Joe” talk show, MSNBC contributor Sam Stein asked Schiff if he had “heard from the whistleblower.” The California Democrat offered a response that in retrospect looks damning.
“We have not spoken directly with the whistleblower,” said Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee. “We would like to.”
However, this Wednesday, Schiff admitted to The New York Times that he knew about the whistleblower’s allegations days before the complaint was even filed. That’s because the whistleblower came to the House Intelligence Committee for advice.
“Like other whistle-blowers have done before and since under Republican and Democratic-controlled committees, the whistle-blower contacted the committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the intelligence community,” said Schiff’s spokesman, Patrick Boland.
How it went down
According to the Times, the whistleblower, who is reportedly a CIA officer, approached a House Intelligence Committee aide and outlined his claims against Trump. The aide reportedly encouraged the officer to find a lawyer and file a complaint with the intelligence community’s inspector general. The officer did so on Aug. 12.
Rumors of the development led to press reports starting in early September.
Meanwhile, the complaint was forwarded through the intelligence bureaucracy before being handed over to the House Intelligence Committee on Sept. 25, at Schiff’s urging. The next day, the committee made public a declassified version of the complaint, which alleged that Trump used his office to solicit Ukraine’s interference in the 2020 election to advance his personal political interests, thereby jeopardizing U.S. national security.
A day before Schiff’s committee received the complaint, on Sept. 24, the White House released a partial transcript of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky, which was central to the whistleblower’s allegations. Among other things, the transcript showed Trump asking his interlocutor to investigate allegations that Biden’s dealings with Ukraine as vice president were corrupt.
Within hours, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California announced that the House was formally launching impeachment proceedings against the president.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing, calling the call “perfect.” And Zelensky has said the conversation was “great” and “normal.”
In its report outing Schiff, the Times noted that his prior knowledge of the complaint “explains how Mr. Schiff knew to press for the complaint when the Trump administration initially blocked lawmakers from seeing it.”
Adam Schiff, the whistleblower and the lies
Stein, the MSNBC contributor, acknowledged in a tweet Wednesday that Schiff had apparently lied to him. But he brushed off the deception.
Schiff did appear to lie here in previously saying that his office had not spoken directly with the whistleblower. But if you care more about this stuff than the actual substance of the whistleblower complaint than you’re being a hack.
— Sam Stein (@samstein) October 2, 2019
On “Morning Joe” Thursday, Stein reported that Schiff had “expressed regret” to him the previous night “for not having been more clear in his wording.” Schiff explained that he wasn’t “100 percent” sure at the time that it was really the whistleblower he had heard from, Stein said.
Trump responded to Schiff’s about-face during a Wednesday press conference with Finland President Sauli Niinisto, accusing the congressman of helping the whistleblower write the complaint.
“That is big stuff. He knew long before. And he helped write it too,” Trump said. “It’s a scam. It’s a scam.”
Trump also called “Shifty Schiff” a “lowlife” and suggested he was guilty of treason. The president has repeatedly made such allegations since Schiff, during a Sept. 26 House Intelligence Committee hearing, delivered a dramatic and inaccurate reading of the transcript of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky. Schiff later said his performance was meant partly as a “parody.”
Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2019
On Thursday, Schiff’s misrepresentations drove another Democratic leader to lie on his behalf. In an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Pelosi falsely claimed that Schiff had only been “using the president’s own words” at last week’s congressional hearing.
“Well, those weren’t the president’s words. It was an interpretation of the president’s words,” replied host George Stephanopoulos.
“He did not make it up,” Pelosi insisted before pivoting back to her argument that the Democrats are impeaching Trump to defend the Constitution.