The day Adam Schiff was named to the “Jan. 6” committee is the day we knew the investigation was going to be a frivolous partisan sideshow. As a political strategy, placing an inveterate fabulist like Schiff on the committee only ensured that it wouldn’t have credibility with Republicans—presumably the people Democrats want to convince.
With dwindling national interest in the proceedings, Schiff went on TV this weekend and announced that the Jan. 6 Committee was in possession of evidence that Donald Trump had hatched a “fake elector plot” (another scheme that had absolutely no chance of working. The more we see the evidence, the more it’s apparent that the system was working). When asked to clarify his contention, Schiff said he did not “want to get ahead of our hearing.” Priming your base for Trump’s arrest—again— is almost surely getting beyond the hearings. But then, Democrats have been overplaying the Trump hand since 2015. The Jan. 6 Committee has become a political version of “Lost,” always a cliffhanger and never a payoff.
What we do know is that Schiff says he has evidence he probably doesn’t. Let’s remember, Schiff was the one who read the Steele Dossier, among other fabrications, into the congressional record—even though he was aware that it was a partisan oppo file paid for by the DNC and shopped by Hillary Clinton partisans with her blessing. On numerous occasions, and with great certitude, Schiff told the media that the central assertion of the dossier was not only conceivable because of Trump’s words, but a fact. And not only did he famously claim to be in personal possession of a “smoking gun” that would prove collusion, he said he had an “abundance” of incriminating evidence.
As the fake Russiagate story fizzled out, Schiff refused to share proof of a seditious, clandestine plot against America. Not in his speeches. Not in Congress. Not on CNN. Not in his self-serving memoir. When then-“View” co-host Meghan McCain asked Schiff about it, the congressman said it had been in “plain sight” the entire time, which is opposite of what he asserted previously.
Yet, when CNN’s Dana Bash hears news of Schiff’s alleged new bombshell, she does not respond, “You know, the last time you promised a smoking gun it turned out to be bogus.” No one at CNN, where 2016 election lies were incubated and spread, does. Jake Tapper—so utterly distraught about the delegitimization of democracy that he has no compunction throwing around Nazi-era terms like “Big Lie” and degrading the suffering of millions—certainly does not.
Schiff’s lying goes beyond the political norm—which, needless to say, is bad enough. This is the guy who lied repeatedly on national television when asked point blank if his office had contact with a whistleblower at the center of Trump’s second impeachment. Turned out his office had coached Alexander Vindman. (Not only did Devin Nunes’ assessment of “Russiagate” turn out to be more largely accurate, so did his claims about Schiff coaching a witness in an impeachment hearing.)
Schiff then fabricated dialogue between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and read it on the congressional floor during that impeachment trial, later claiming it was a “parody.” When Wolf Blitzer—in a classic “Republicans pounce” framing—asked Schiff if he regretted lying, his answer was that his invented conversation was “all too accurate.”
In a healthy, functioning “democracy,” elected officials involved in plots to discredit the results of an election are denounced and saddled with repercussions. In a banana republic, they are charged with investigating others who discredit the results of elections. Whatever Trump did or didn’t do, it has become insufferable watching the same people who spent four years spinning conspiracies about 2016 lecture us about the importance of honoring the outcomes of presidential elections. The committee has spent most of its time conflating what looks like completely legal, if often destructive and dumb, actions with the violence of rioting. If they have proof of sedition or of incitement or of a conspiracy or coup, go for it. Send it to the Justice Department.
But if Adam Schiff says it exists, I wouldn’t bet on it.