When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was gaming out the plan for impeachment hearings, she took a somewhat surprising step by placing the Intelligence Community front and center in the proceedings as it pursues the Ukraine investigation. And on Tuesday, after a long day of testimony from four critical witnesses, Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) delivered an impassioned speech that exemplified why Pelosi entrusted the trying task of leading the effort to him.
Schiff thanked Ambassador Kurt Volker and White House aide Tim Morrison for their testimony, noting that Volker had debunked Republicans’ attacks on former Vice President Joe Biden.
“You didn’t get a lot of questions about [Biden] today as other witnesses did, because I think you effectively said that was also nonsense,” Schiff told Volker, in a gentle broadside to his GOP colleagues. “We appreciate your candor about that.”
He also noted that Morrison confirmed that the Ukrainians were told by the U.S. that they needed to announce the investigations of President Donald Trump’s political opponents before they could get military aid or a White House meeting.
Then he launched into perhaps the best explanation yet of why Trump’s conduct as exposed by the inquiry is so disturbing, and why the Republican defenses of the president don’t hold any water.
“Bribery, for those watching at home, is the conditioning of officials acts in exchange for something of personal value,” Schiff said. “The official acts we’re talking about here are a White House meeting that [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky desperately sought — and as you have acknowledged, Ambassador Volker, was deeply important to this country at war with Russia, to show that the United States had this new president’s back. That meeting was important. That meeting was an official act. The military assistance is even more significant because Ukrainians are dying every day in their war with Russia. And so, the withholding of military assistance to get these investigations — which you now have acknowledged, Ambassador Volker, was wrong for the president to request — the idea of withholding that military aid to get these political investigations should be anathema, repugnant to every American.”
He continued in a passionate crescendo: “Now, my Republican colleagues, all they seem to be upset about this is not that the president sought an investigation of his political rival. Not that he withheld a White House meeting and $400 million in aid we all passed on a bipartisan basis to pressure Ukraine to do those investigations. Their objection is that he got caught! Their objection is that someone blew the whistle! And they would like this whistleblower identified. And the president wants the whistleblower punished. That’s their objection! Not that the president engaged in this conduct, but that he got caught! Their defense is: Well, he ended up releasing the aid. Yes, after he got caught! That doesn’t make this any less odious.”
Since Schiff is generally reluctant to raise his voice or show intense emotion, the passion with which he delivered these remarks made them land with even more gravity.
Watch the full remarks below:
‘The monarch has taken a body blow’: Ex-prosecutor explains why Court ruling is devastating for Trump
On MSNBC Thursday, former federal prosecutor John Flannery broke down the implications of the Supreme Court's ruling against President Donald Trump on immunity from subpoenas.
"I think what it says is that the monarch has taken a body blow as a result of what will be an historic decision, as we've indicated," said Flannery. "I think that the position of the DA in New York is very special, because he can speed this up in a way that the House can',t and has a specific strength, I think, in this case, that it is criminal."
"The most significant thing about it is this is the first Supreme Court case in which there's ever been agreed that a prosecutor could subpoena a president," added Flannery. "Prior prosecutions have been federal, that have been treated by the Supreme Court. So this is a big difference. The majority of the court, 7-2, basically said, from 1740 on, the public is entitled to the testimony, to the evidence of any person. They said that the documents — the question is the character documents, not the character of the person. In this case, what we have is a situation which I bet that the DA is going to go to the court as soon as possible, move to compel an appearance to their subpoena, and going to have the discussion as to what if anything may be limited or excluded and get production as quickly as possible."
Trump officials demanded the Army ‘dig for misconduct’ to justify firing Lt. Col. Vindman
This week, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman willingly left the Army after decades of honorable service. He cited a concerted campaign of "bullying" from the highest branches of power in the United States, and now more details are becoming known.
A New Yorker report revealed that top aides to President Donald Trump were told that they needed to find dirt on Vindman that could justify the firing of the decorated war hero.
"Vindman expected to go to the National War College this fall—a low-profile assignment—then take another foreign posting," the New Yorker reported. "But, in a final act of revenge, the White House recently made clear that Trump opposed Vindman’s promotion. Senior Administration officials told [Defense Secretary Mark] Esper and Ryan McCarthy, the Secretary of the Army, to dig for misconduct that would justify blocking Vindman’s promotion. They couldn’t find anything, multiple sources told me. Others in the military chain of command began to warn Vindman that he would never be deployable overseas again—despite his language skills and regional expertise."
Russian bounties: Pentagon vows ‘action’ if intel confirmed
Top Pentagon officials pledged Thursday to "take action" if the US military could corroborate intelligence suggesting Moscow paid militants linked to the Taliban to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper spoke before a congressional committee as the Trump administration comes under pressure to explain media reports claiming the president was briefed on the intelligence -- but did nothing in response.
Milley said the information was "not corroborated."
"We'll get to the bottom of it. We are going to find out if, in fact, it's true. And if it is true, we will take action," he continued, without specifying what kind of action might be taken.