While presidential fluffers like Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) are using the ongoing impeachment hearings to show just how disingenuous an individual without any concept of human dignity or honor can be in defense of their authoritarian boss, Democratic Congressman and Chair of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff (D-CA) seems almost too placid in comparison. You know, what with the fate of our democracy hanging in tatters as Donald Trump tramples all over the Constitution, openly cheats to try to win a second term, and orders his minions with relevant knowledge of his shiftiness to defy congressional orders and all. But maybe some quiet competence and dignity is what’s needed in the face of such a hot air-storm of Fox News talking points, brazen lies, and shamelessness from the Republican Party. Let’s fucking hope so, anyway.
Even so, Stephen Colbert, having Schiff in-house for a primer on how the impeachment investigation is going, couldn’t help but appear exasperated at Schiff’s untroubled countenance as the congressman patiently explained the Democrats’ reasoning. Citing the way that Democrats threatened to have U.S. marshals scoop defiant Nixon witnesses off the street to get them to testify during Watergate, Colbert asked why people with direct knowledge of presidential malfeasance aren’t being similarly rounded up and compelled to tell what they know. Schiff had plenty of very reasonable explanations, chief among them the fact that acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and company are counting on subpoenas to allow them to take approximately two years to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court. By that time, Schiff noted, Trump will have already had the time to destroy the legitimacy of the 2020 elections. Without breaking stride, Schiff asked if Congress should “wait until after the president cheats again in the next election?” Fair point.
The whole night was like that, with Schiff unruffled by both the huge responsibility resting on his and his Democratic colleagues’ shoulders, and Colbert’s prodding. Even bandleader Jon Batiste singing The Late Show’s impeachment jingle (“Trump said, ‘Do us a favor though.’”) had no effect. Reading off a list of the Trump officials and accomplices not testifying before Congress, Colbert choked down an exasperated sigh before asking his guest once more, “How can you go forward without knowing what the truth is.” With the confidence of a guy who indeed knows what the truth is, Schiff responded that he and his colleagues already know exactly what’s up here. (He also politely dodged Colbert’s yes-or-no question about whether Russian stooge and Rudy Giuliani henchman Lev Parnas has handed over incriminating tapes of the whole thing, as is rumored). “This is not just about prior conduct,” Schiff said, but that the administration is openly doing exactly the sorts of things (seeking foreign help in smearing a political opponent) that they’re investigating. “It never stopped—it never will stop—until we put an end to it,” he said.
Not that the congressman was always so even-tempered. Throughout the interview, Schiff—without resorting to Gaetz-ian grandstanding or rage-spittle—laid into Trump, and to his Republican colleagues in Congress. As for Trump, Schiff enumerated how he has proven himself to be the founders’ nightmare scenario with regard to impeachment. (Unethical person abusing the power of the office? Check. Seeking to have a foreign power interfere in our affairs for his own gain? That’s a check. To help undermine an American presidential election on his behalf? Yeah, check.) He also got uncharacteristically blunt in his assessment of Trump as an “unethical,” “terrible man,” that “put children in cages,” and “extort[ed] our allies.” But Schiff saved most of his (still moderated) vitriol for the Republicans remaining in lockstep defense of the formerly indefensible. While in the past, some GOP peers have approached him with private misgivings about that whole egregious corruption and self-serving Constitution-shredding thing, Schiff said, “I’m not interested any more in their private misgivings.” When the book is finally closed on Donald Trump, “for all too many” of the Republican Party, “it will be nothing except shame.” Plus, no matter how even-tempered you are when you say it, there’s no hiding the contempt in pronouncing, “There is no bottom to the degree to which some of my colleagues will prostrate themselves to please the president.” That’s your bottoms Rep. Schiff is talking about, GOP.