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Impeachment Today Podcast: Adam Ruins Everything (For Trump)

In today's episode: a deep dive on Adam Schiff, who will be running the biggest show in town for the next few weeks.

Posted on November 13, 2019, at 12:03 a.m. ET

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Adam Schiff, Democrat of California and the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

It's Tuesday, November 12th, 2019, 49 days since House Democrats began impeachment proceedings. Every morning, the Impeachment Today podcast helps you separate what’s real and groundbreaking from what’s just, well, bullshit.

You can listen to today's episode below, or check it out on on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

It's Tuesday, November 12th, 2019, 49 days into the impeachment saga and this is Impeachment Today. Good morning. I'm Hayes Brown, reporter and editor at BuzzFeed News. Happy Public Impeachment hearings eve, everyone. I hope you and your family curl up tonight with a copy of the Whistleblower Complaint for some light reading in the spirit of the season. Okay. Today we're talking to BuzzFeed news's Emma Loop about Adam Schiff, the man with the gavel running this week's live impeachment hearings.

But before we get to all that, let's catch up on what happened yesterday. House Democrats released three more transcripts on Monday from their closed door depositions that included the defense department's Laura Cooper and the state department's Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson. Cooper is a top DOD official working on Russia and Ukraine and reading her testimony... Well, if you want a nitty gritty, look at my numbing methods behind how the government spends money.

Boy, do I have good news for you? Seriously though. Cooper explained that there was a lot of concern inside the Pentagon and across the government that a hold on military aid to Ukraine this Summer was not entirely legal. Croft meanwhile said that Ukraine was very aware of the hold before it was made public in late August. The $391 million at the White House's office of management and budget ordered frozen is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. One of the main questions Democrats are trying to answer is, was that money held up until Ukraine granted the political favors Trump asked for in a July phone call with Ukraine's president.

Meanwhile, just hours before impeachment hearings begin, a battle is reportedly raging inside the White House. In one corner, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, on the other, White House council Pat Cipollone. Mulvaney is at the center of a scandal as the person who ordered the aid held. Cipollone meanwhile, is reportedly angling to be Trump's main lawyer during the likely Senate impeachment trial. The Washington Post says both want to be in charge of impeachment strategy, which means nobody is in charge of impeachment strategy for the White House.

That's bad news for Republican senators who are desperate for some guidance about how to defend the president before the trial eventually begins. That was the news, this is the noise. President Trump hopped on Twitter on Monday, which has somehow just become a fact of life, but this time he got even spicier than normal. We're talking 2 million Scoville's hot sauce featured on hot ones level of spice. First he claimed that house intelligence committee chair Adam Schiff will fabricate the transcripts that he is making and releasing, which no, that is not a thing that has been happening.

Then he said he would be releasing a transcript of the first call he held with Ukraine's president Zelensky. Sorry. As he said, the first and therefore most important call he held with Zelensky. "I am sure you will find it tantalizing," he added. Given how the transcript is, sure the July call he had with Zelensky was filled with incriminating statements, I'm sure we will too. And finally, CNN reports that Rudy Giuliani is considering starting his own impeachment podcast, which I am here for the competition. And we'll say again, Mr. Mayor, if you ever want to have a chat, we here are more than happy to have you. And now for those of you who like math in school more than English, we have today's reading from our Nixometer.

On a scale of 0 as a normal day, normal White House, 10 Richard Nixon resigns and flies away in Marine One, this morning we're at a 5.5. That may seem like a steep drop from yesterday, but think of it as a low pressure front ahead of a hurricane. Things on Monday were settling in for the public hearings and folks were battening down the hatches on both sides. Okay? After the break we talked to Emma Loop about the witch hunt king, Adam Schiff. Stick around.

All right, it is time for This Fucking Guy. Today we're talking about house intelligence committee chair Adam Schiff, the lanky law man who's going to be ring master at the live hearings starting tomorrow. Joining us by phone from the nation's capital and talk about Schiff and the bullseye that's been on his back for weeks is BuzzFeed News, congressional reporter Emma Loop. Emma, thank you so much for joining us.

Emma Loop:

Thanks for having me, Hayes.

HB:

So Emma, as one of our favorite Canadians in the DC office, how does this mess look from your point of view?

EL:

Ever since I got to DC more than three years ago, it's been kind of nonstop madness between the 2016 election, the early months of the Trump presidency and all the investigations and the firing of Comey and everything. And so this is kind of just par for the course at this point. It's always crazy in DC, I've learned to accept it.

HB:

Illuminating and depressing. So let's talk Schiff. He's been a real pain in Trump's posterior for the last three years. How has that played out since he became chair of the house intelligence committee earlier this year?

EL:

So when the Democrats took back control of the house, he became chairman of the house intelligence committee. His first order of business was really relaunching that committee's Russia investigation. It had been closed under the previous chairmanship of Devin Nunes, a Republican from California. And Democrats had long said that that investigation was not thorough enough, was not a serious probe. So Schiff relaunched it and reinvigorated it.

He had brought on all kinds of really serious investigators, staff members to lead the investigation, including some former prosecutors from SDNY, the former head of financial crimes, the FBI. So some really heavy hitters to take on this investigation. And of course, that changed when in September news broke about this Whistleblower Complaint and the impeachment inquiry was launched and the committee eventually took the lead on this impeachment inquiry.

HB:

Yeah. Schiff himself is a former prosecutor. He's been pushed forward as a pro at this, but he's gotten in trouble for paraphrasing what Trump said in his call with Ukraine's president and been accused of putting words in Trump's mouth. Here's part of how Schiff decided to open a hearing the day after the White House released the transcript ish.

Adam Schiff:

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. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand lots of it.

HB:

So Schiff has said this is a parody, at least a paraphrase, but those words weren't really in the transcript ish. Emma, do you think that was a fuck up on his part?

EL:

I think it was a bit of an unforced error. I mean the transcript and much of the testimony that they've heard since then really reinforces the idea that there was a hold up on the military aid to Ukraine and it was contingent upon some sort of investigation being launched by the new Ukrainian administration. And so I don't think there was a necessity to make kind of that political jab. You could have just read from the transcript itself or the non transcript, the summary of the call. It was just kind of unnecessary. It garnered attacks from Republicans where you didn't really need to.

HB:

Was Schiff just channeling his inner thespian there? What kind of point was he trying to make and do you think that in doing so he veered off course from what we should have been talking about this whole time?

EL:

I think he was getting back to this point of Trump talking a bit like a mobster, and this was obviously an issue when Michael Cohen testified to Congress about his interactions with the president and the instruction or non instruction to lie to Congress. What has come up several times is that the president maybe has a way of speaking that isn't quite so direct that there are nod and words that aren't specific instructions to do something. But it's very clear based off of what he's saying and what he's implying that he wants you to do something for him.

EL:

And so I think that that's what Schiff was trying to get at this idea of mob talk from the president of the United States. But again, it was a bit unnecessary. You had the summary of the call already, it wasn't a good summary. It didn't make the president look particularly good. So it was just unnecessary. And for a guy who's supposed to be the leader of the usually nonpartisan house intelligence committee, again, it was just a bit unnecessary.

HB:

So one of the other lines of attack against Schiff says that he basically lied about the contact his committee staff has had with a whistleblower. What's all that about? It doesn't quite track with what we know so far.

EL:

Right. So Republicans have really ceased on criticizing the process of the impeachment inquiry and less the substance because the substance in many cases is again quite damning for the president and for his associates. So one of those critiques has been whether Schiff was in contact with the whistleblower before the whistleblower filed the complaint through the regular channels. And basically, what this all stems from is based on a New York Times story from a while back.

EL:

The whistleblower before filing the complaint had contact with one of the staff members of the house intelligence committee, and it's not clear if it was a person looking for advice on how to proceed, et cetera. Apparently they were concerned that their concerns were not being taken seriously or wouldn't be taken seriously in some manner. And that staff then encouraged the whistleblower to seek legal counsel and to file a formal whistleblower complaint.

EL:

And so what Republicans are saying is that the process is rigged, which is of course a familiar term to anyone who survived the 2016 campaign. But we don't have any indication that Schiff himself knows the identity of the whistleblower and there is no indication that Schiff himself spoke with the whistleblower directly. There was just this one contact apparently between a staff member and the whistleblower who in that staff member, per the committee process offered some guidance.

HB:

Right. And it's so wild that that's been spun into, "Adam Schiff knows who the whistleblower is. Impeach Adam Schiff," which is not a thing.

EL:

I mean, the house intelligence committee is one of two committees on the helm that provides oversight of the intelligence community. It makes sense that a potential whistleblower might reach out to the oversight committee.

HB:

Okay. So after all that, very quickly, what is Schiff's literal job once the hearing start tomorrow and during the next few weeks?

EL:

So he's going to be separating the house Democrats through the rest of this process. When the public hearings start this week, he will be the chairman, he will open up the committee hearings, he will be kind of the last word in terms of control of the hearings and how they will operate proceeding times to different people and allowing them to speak. And of course, leading the rest of this inquiry, deciding what kind of documents they ask for, who else they subpoena. And writing this, they're going to have to write some sort of report as well. And so he's going to be leading all of that in the weeks and perhaps months to come.

HB:

Months.

EL:

Yeah. Merry Christmas.

HB:

Before we let you go, Emma, what did you bring for The Kicker?

EL:

So Congressman Matt Gaetz says you're going to include members of Congress on committees that have roles of impeachment. And chairman Schiff cuts in he says, "Mr. Gaetz, take your statement to the press. They do you no good here. So please absent yourself." This is from a transcript that was released last week by the committee of one of the recent interviews and it's Matt Gaetz, who's a staunch Trump supporter trying to join in on the impeachment inquiry despite the fact that he's not on one of the committees that's leading the inquiry, and Schiff just tells him to get out of the room to secure a room where they're doing this interview.

HB:

I'm going to start using apps into yourself on the daily when I'm talking people who I don't want in my mentions, just absent yourself from my mentions, from my life. That's an amazing quote. Emma, thank you so much for bringing that and taking the time today. I really appreciate it and you and good luck surviving this week.

EL:

Thank you. I appreciate it. Thanks for having me on.

Hayes Brown:

All right, it is time to testify. It's where we talk about who's testifying to Congress next and it is finally here. Public hearings starting tomorrow at 10:00 AM Eastern time. All the major networks will televise the first hearing live from the house intelligence committee plus the cable news networks, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and C-SPAN will also provide live coverage. PBS will also re-air them in prime time. Now, if you, a fellow millennial like me or I guess the gen Z crowd counts here too, don't have a TV, you can probably just Google impeachment hearings livestream and you'll get some way to tune in.

There are so many ways to watch this drama unfold. Two people will be testifying. Bill Taylor, the guy currently running the US embassy in Ukraine and George Kent, a state department official whose portfolio includes Ukraine. If you want a more in depth look at the way the hearings will run, go back and listen to our episode from last Friday called Impeachment Hearings, but make it prime time. What a time to be alive indeed. That's it for today. Tomorrow we'll have a chat about Bill Taylor.

You'll want to give it a listen before the hearings begin. And this week, we're asking you the listeners about how you're going to watch this drama, Facebook, YouTube, skipping the mess entirely? And beyond how you watch it, what are you most excited about finally getting to see once things go public? Open up the Voice Memo app on your phone, record your message and send it to us at impeachment@buzzfeed.com or just send me a direct message on Twitter. I'm at HB and my DMs are open. Be sure to subscribe on the the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows - and maybe leave a rating and review. Also, tell your friends about the show as we all figure this out together.

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