Ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) hardly rates as a household name. He’s a bit stiff, not your typical glad-handing politician. Nevertheless, with the primacy of the Russia investigation he has become a frequent face on TV news. His effective, precise arguments, delivered largely without hyperbole, are an effective counterpoint to the often hysterical White House utterances.
At the start of the House Intelligence hearing, Schiff methodically traced the series of events concerning President Trump’s Russia scandal. He pointedly reminded the audience and fellow lawmakers, “We will never know whether the Russian intervention was determinative in such a close election. Indeed, it is unknowable in a campaign in which so many small changes could have dictated a different result. More importantly, and for the purposes of our investigation, it simply does not matter. What does matter is this: The Russians successfully meddled in our democracy, and our intelligence agencies have concluded that they will do so again.”
Moreover, he reiterated that Trump had personally welcomed such interference after the first Wikileaks release of Hillary Clinton’s emails:
A hacker who goes by the moniker Guccifer 2.0 claims responsibility for hacking the DNC and giving the documents to Wikileaks. But leading private cybersecurity firms including CrowdStrike, Mandiant and ThreatConnect review the evidence of the hack and conclude with high certainty that it was the work of APT28 and APT29, who were known to be Russian intelligence services. The U.S. intelligence community also later confirms that the documents were in fact stolen by Russian intelligence and Guccifer 2.0 acted as a front. Also in late July, candidate Trump praises Wikileaks, says he loves them, and openly appeals to the Russians to hack his opponents’ emails, telling them that they will be richly rewarded by the press.
He also recalled that Trump confidante Roger Stone correctly predicted the release of John Podesta’s emails.
Schiff was just getting warmed up. He walked through Michael Flynn’s calls with the Russian ambassador, his lying about them and his firing. Then, like a good prosecutor (he once was one), Schiff made his closing argument:
Now, is it possible that the removal of the Ukraine provision from the GOP platform was a coincidence? Is it a coincidence that Jeff Sessions failed to tell the Senate about his meetings with the Russian ambassador, not only at the convention, but a more private meeting in his office and at a time when the U.S. election was under attack by the Russians? Is it a coincidence that Michael Flynn would lie about a conversation he had with the same Russian Ambassador Kislyak about the most pressing issue facing both countries at the time they spoke — the U.S. imposition of sanctions over Russian hacking of our election designed to help Donald Trump? Is it a coincidence that the Russian gas company Rosneft sold a 19 percent share after former British intelligence officer [Christopher] Steele was told by Russian sources that Carter Page was offered fees on a deal of just that size? Is it a coincidence that Steele’s Russian sources also affirmed that Russia had stolen documents hurtful to Secretary Clinton that it would utilize in exchange for pro-Russian policies that would later come to pass? Is it a coincidence that Roger Stone predicted that John Podesta would be the victim of a Russian hack and have his private emails published, and did so even before Mr. Podesta himself was fully aware that his private emails would be exposed?
Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated, and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence? Yes, it is possible. But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected and not unrelated, and that the Russians used the same techniques to corrupt U.S. persons that they have employed in Europe and elsewhere. We simply don’t know, not yet, and we owe it to the country to find out.
It’s that sort of precise, factual case — one that summons us to use common sense and reason — that will be necessary to cut through Trump’s fog of distraction and lies. Trump won’t be undone by dramatic rhetoric or showy performances. He can be revealed as a huckster and fraud only when facts and reason triumph over irrationality. If that comes to pass, a good amount of the credit should go to Schiff.