Adam Schiff: The GOP’s Control of the House Adds ‘New Danger’ to Trump Case

·5 min read
Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero / The Daily Beast / Reuters
Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero / The Daily Beast / Reuters

When news broke on Thursday that former President Donald Trump was criminally indicted in Manhattan, congressional Republicans—as they’ve done countless times before—immediately declared they would leverage their power to defend him.

“I’m directing relevant committees to immediately investigate if federal funds are being used to subvert our democracy,” tweeted Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), “by interfering in elections with politically motivated prosecutions.” Days before the indictment, GOP chairmen signaled they would demand the testimony of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

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Key lawmakers also quickly declared they would retaliate against Democrats. “Hunter Biden: Call your lawyers,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) tweeted after the indictment news broke.

Few officials are more familiar with the GOP playbook than Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who made his name as perhaps Trump’s most dedicated foe in Congress.

The Storm Arrives: NYC Grand Jury Indicts Donald Trump

In an interview on Friday with The Daily Beast, Schiff said McCarthy and GOP lawmakers’ plan to run interference for Trump in response to the indictment are “very true to form.”

But Schiff argued a key difference this time around—as Trump makes grim history as first U.S. president to ever face criminal charges—is that Republicans wield real power to disrupt the proceedings to hold him accountable.

“Jim Jordan acted like he was Donald Trump’s defense lawyer. Now they're in the majority,” Schiff said. “They didn’t have the power of the speakership before. Now they do. That adds a new danger to our democracy and the rule of law.”

When asked, Schiff did not detail any specific plans Democrats were developing to counter the Republican efforts. In the House, the Democratic minority has little recourse except to vocalize their opposition to GOP efforts to derail Bragg’s indictment of Trump on charges related to alleged hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. (The exact charges will be revealed once the indictment is unsealed in the coming days.)

In January, McCarthy removed Schiff from his leadership post on the House Intelligence Committee in retaliation for his role in Trump’s impeachments. He was reinstated on the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the country’s law enforcement system, and is chaired by Jordan. Now, Schiff is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by the retiring Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

But Schiff, as much as any Democrat, has a long view of Trump’s relationship with powerful GOP officeholders. He was a key player in the early congressional Trump-Russia investigation, spearheaded the 2019 impeachment probe, and sat on the Select Committee investigating Jan. 6.

One of the most striking things about the Trump indictment, Schiff said, was how it reflected Trump’s enduring grip on the GOP—and his enduring imprint on the party’s character.

At the dawn of the Trump administration, for instance, even the president’s GOP backers agreed that a special counsel should be appointed to investigate the connections between the 2016 campaign and Russia.

“In the early Trump years, there was initially some expression of support for the rule of law, some outrage at his immorality and indecency, his violence and vitriol, his lawlessness,” Schiff said. “Year after year that would give way, to the point where they’re rushing to defend someone accused of making hush money payments to a porn star.”

While a number of Republicans outspokenly defended Trump on Thursday—from diehard supporters to avowed skeptics—for Schiff, the most notable statement came from the man who is currently the ex-president’s top rival: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis Talks Tough After Indictment. Trumpers Unimpressed.

DeSantis, who is likely to challenge Trump in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, issued a harsh rebuke of the indictment on Thursday, calling it “un-American.”

“The [George] Soros-backed Manhattan District Attorney has consistently bent the law to downgrade felonies and to excuse criminal misconduct,” DeSantis tweeted. “Yet, now he is stretching the law to target a political opponent.”

Notably, the governor committed to not cooperating with New York authorities to extradite Trump, a Florida resident, if the former president had chosen not to surrender in Manhattan.

For Schiff, DeSantis’ statement was “a perfect illustration” of today’s GOP. “It’s not enough to try to interfere with justice,” he said. “The antipathy toward the rule of law, that’s not even enough. They have to drag the repeated reference of George Soros into it and add that nice anti-semitic cast onto it.”

“Trump is not wrong,” Schiff said, “when he said he made Ron DeSantis.”

For someone who has played a central role in efforts to hold Trump to some degree of account, Schiff might be expected to take some measure of relief in the indictment of the former president. Indeed, on Thursday, social media was saturated with messages of liberals outright cheering and celebrating the prospect of Trump in handcuffs.

But many Democratic lawmakers urged a different tone—including Schiff, who came out with a very early statement calling the indictment a “sobering” moment for the country.

“I don’t think it should be celebrated,” Schiff said. “It’s an affirmation of the principle that no one is above the law.”

“Prosecutors follow the evidence, follow facts and the law and where charges are warranted, they should bring charges,” he said. “They should do so whether it’s the former president of the United States or an ordinary citizen.”

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