The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Rep. Adam Schiff, who led first Trump impeachment trial, announces Senate run

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) speaks during a news conference in response to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's vow to block him from being a part of the Intelligence Committee, on Capitol Hill on Jan. 25 in Washington, D.C. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) has announced that he is running for U.S. Senate in 2024, joining a growing field of Democrats who are seeking to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has not explicitly said she would run for reelection.

“We’re in the fight of our lives for the future of our country,” Schiff said in a statement Thursday. “Our democracy is under assault from MAGA extremists, who care only about gaining power and keeping it. And our economy is simply not working for millions of Americans, who are working harder than ever just to get by.”

Schiff, 62, has drawn ridicule from Donald Trump for his fierce criticism of the former president from various posts: as Trump impeachment manager in 2020, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

In his campaign announcement, Schiff harked back to all of those roles.

“The fight for our democracy and working families is part of the same struggle,” Schiff said. “Because if our democracy isn’t delivering for Americans, they’ll look for alternatives, like a dangerous demagogue who promises that he alone can fix it.”

Schiff was first elected to Congress in 2000, representing a large swath of the greater Los Angeles area, including San Gabriel Valley. Previously he served as a California state senator and as an assistant U.S. Attorney, where he prosecuted FBI agent Richard Miller for espionage.

Schiff gained national attention for his emotional closing statement at Trump’s first impeachment trial, in which he urged members of Congress to remove Trump from office because he could still do “a lot of damage” in the months running up to the election.

“Does anybody really question whether the president is capable of what he’s charged with? No one is really making the argument, ‘Donald Trump would never do such a thing!’ because of course we know that he would, and of course we know that he did,” Schiff said.

The House had passed two articles of impeachment against Trump for his attempts to withhold military aid from Ukraine and pressure the country to announce an investigation into Joe Biden. Allowing Trump to remain in office, Schiff argued then, would be even more dangerous if the Russians were to start interfering in the 2020 election again.

“Can you have the least bit of confidence that Donald Trump will stand up to them and protect our national interest over his own personal interest?” Schiff said. “You know you can’t, which makes him dangerous to this country.”

The Senate ultimately acquitted Trump in February 2020, and would do so again a year later, after Trump was impeached a second time for inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The repercussions of Schiff’s role in the first impeachment trial, however, are still being felt more than three years later. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) recently blocked Schiff from serving on the Intelligence Committee again, saying he could not “put partisan loyalty ahead of national security.”

Schiff told reporters later that his “cardinal sin appears to be that I led the impeachment of [McCarthy’s] master in Mar-a-Lago.”

“He will do the former president’s bidding,” Schiff said. “He’s entirely reliant on the former president, and this is something the former president wants.”

Feinstein, 89, last year filed initial paperwork to run for reelection in 2024 but has not explicitly said whether she will seek another term. California’s other senator, Democrat Alex Padilla, 49, won his first full term in November and won’t be up for election again until 2028.

Schiff will join Democratic Reps. Katie Porter, 49, who announced her run this month, and Barbara Lee, 76, who told colleagues that she intends to run for the Senate seat. California leans heavily Democratic and utilizes an all-party primary system in which the top two candidates advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation.

Feinstein, the former mayor of San Francisco, has been a trailblazer, elected to the Senate in 1992 amid the outrage among women over the Senate’s treatment of Anita Hill, who accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment when he was a nominee for Supreme Court justice. Thomas denied the charges.

As the oldest sitting senator, Feinstein has for years waved off questions about her age and ability to serve but has also relinquished a number of key roles in recent years. She stepped down as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee before the 117th Congress. Last year, Feinstein declined consideration to become president pro tempore of the Senate, a position that traditionally goes to the most senior senator of the party in power and is third in line to the presidency. The role instead went to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

Should Feinstein step down before the end of her term, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has said he would appoint a Black woman to fill the role.

“We have multiple names in mind, and the answer is yes,” he said when asked whether he would do so on MSNBC’s “The ReidOut” in 2021.

There have been no Black women in the Senate since Kamala D. Harris of California resigned her seat to serve as vice president. Newsom appointed Padilla to fill Harris’s seat, making him the first Latino senator to represent California.

The race for Feinstein’s seat, regardless of whether Feinstein runs for reelection, is likely to be a competitive and expensive one. The most recent Federal Election Commission reports show Schiff had $20.6 million in available campaign funds. Porter had $7.7 million in cash on hand and Lee had $54,940.

Dylan Wells contributed to this report.