President Trump and Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and one of the Democrats’ point people on impeachment, got into a war of words Thursday.
Moments after acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testified about his handling of a whistleblower complaint against Trump, Schiff told reporters on Capitol Hill that it was “hard to imagine a more serious set of allegations than those contained in the complaint,” which deals with the president’s attempts to enlist the government of Ukraine in gathering damaging information about Joe Biden, his potential political rival.
Schiff said his committee would continue to investigate the president through a 14-day recess scheduled to begin on Friday.
“We need to look into the allegation that this may not be the only communication of a potentially corrupt character that was shielded by this classified information computer system, abused for that purpose,” Schiff said, referring to allegations that records of Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were sequestered on a super-secure server rather than the one ordinarily used for such purposes.
Republicans on the committee disputed Schiff’s description of the July 25 conversation between Trump and Zelensky. “This is the essence of what the president communicates,” Schiff said. “We’ve been very good to your country, very good, no other country has done as much as we have, but you know that. I don’t see much reciprocity here. I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you, though. And I’m going to say this only seven times, so you better listen good.”
Republicans have tried to keep the focus off the investigation, and public attention on the absence of an explicit quid pro quo between Trump and Zelensky. Schiff’s remarks indicate he believes the offer was implicit.
Democrats have also begun to make the argument that seeking help for his reelection from a foreign government is an impeachable offense by Trump, whether or not it was part of an explicit exchange.
As Schiff spoke to reporters, Trump took to Twitter, where he echoed the criticism from many Republicans that Schiff and the Democrats were concocting a story to damage his presidency.
Seconds after the tweet appeared, Schiff, who was still answering questions from reporters, was asked to respond to it.
“I’m always flattered when I’m attacked by someone of the president’s character,” Schiff responded.
As Schiff’s exchange with the press concluded, the New York Times reported that Trump told staff members that he wanted to learn the identity of the person in his administration who provided whistleblower information about his call with Zelensky, saying that person was “close to a spy.” Schiff, in turn, responded with a tweet of his own.
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