- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 24, 2019

House impeachment ringleader Rep. Adam B. Schiff on Sunday bucked President Trump‘s calls for him to testify in a Senate trial, saying the very idea is frivolous.

A Senate trial, which would follow a House impeachment of Mr. Trump, is looking all but inevitable, and calls are growing for testimony by Mr. Schiff, who would face questions about his role in orchestrating the whistleblower complaint that launched the inquiry.

“If the Senate wants to call me as a witness, then they pretty much made the decision not to take this process seriously,” Mr. Schiff said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “All I can relate is what the witnesses said in deposition and in the open hearings, and that’s no reason to call me as a witness.”

Mr. Schiff, California Democrat and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the evidence was “overwhelming” that Mr. Trump abused his power by trying to force Ukraine to investigate meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and political rival Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter, which he described as an effort to help the president’s reelection campaign.

Despite the strong rhetoric, Democratic leaders have not publicly committed to an impeachment vote.

Mr. Trump has laid out whom he would like to see featured when impeachment reaches “our turf,” he said in reference to the Republican-run Senate. His witness list also includes the anonymous whistleblower and both Bidens.

The White House is preparing for a Senate trial but isn’t entirely sure impeachment is a done deal in the House, said Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to the president.

“We’re preparing for both eventualities,” she said on the CBS Sunday talk show “Face the Nation.”

Mrs. Conway argued that front-line Democrats — particularly 31 from districts Mr. Trump won in 2016 — face a lot of pressure on impeachment, which has diverted Congress from priorities such as lowering prescription drug prices and approving a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

Many Democratic lawmakers are “wringing their hands” after two weeks of public impeachment hearings, Mrs. Conway said. She argued that the hearings came up short of bombshell testimony that implicated Mr. Trump in wrongdoing that justifies impeachment.

None of the 12 witnesses pinned a crime of bribery or extortion on the president, she said, and the closest was U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Mr. Sondland testified that there was a quid pro quo for a White House meeting, which he “presumed” was what Mr. Trump wanted.

Rep. James A. Himes, Connecticut Democrat and an intelligence committee member, disagreed with Mrs. Conway’s takeaways from the hearings.

“I don’t think any Democrat looked at what happened the last two weeks and said, ‘Gosh, I don’t think anything is there,’” he said on the CBS show.

After hearing from 12 witnesses during two weeks of hearings, polls showed that the American public isn’t rallying around impeachment. An Emerson College survey conducted last week found that support for impeachment dipped to 45% from 48% in October.

The drop in support was most striking among independents, to 43% from 48% in October.

House Democrats have not scheduled more hearings.

Mr. Schiff said his committee could request more documents or hold more closed-door depositions. He noted that a handful of key witnesses have not testified, including former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump‘s personal attorney.

“What we’re not prepared to do is wait months and months while the administration plays a game of rope-a-dope in an effort to try to stall. We’re not willing to go down that road,” Mr. Schiff said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” as he made the rounds of Sunday talk shows.

He said U.S. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. could force the witnesses to testify in a Republican-controlled Senate trial.

Mr. Schiff singled out Mr. Bolton, who has suggested having potentially new information about the Ukraine incident.

“He will have to explain one day, if he maintains that position, why he wanted to wait to put it in a book instead of telling the American people what he knew when it really mattered to the country,” he said.

Meanwhile, the intelligence committee is working on the report it will send to the House Judiciary Committee, which will oversee proceedings on whether to pass articles of impeachment.

It’s unclear exactly what the Judiciary process will look like.

When starting the impeachment inquiry, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi centered Democrats’ efforts on the Ukraine allegations but said the caucus is still working under an “umbrella approach” in which five other committees lead investigations into Mr. Trump‘s finances, potential violations to the Constitution’s emoluments clause and issues related to the Mueller report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

One thing that is established for the Judiciary procedures is that the president’s legal team will be able to participate in the proceedings and have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses.

There is a notable caveat, though.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, can waive the administration’s participation if they resist any of Congress’ requests for witnesses and documents — something the White House already had been doing.

The impeachment inquiry stems from a July 25 phone call in which Mr. Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for a “favor” in investigating the Bidens and alleged Ukrainian meddling in the U.S. election.

A whistleblower, who is believed to be a CIA official assigned to the White House, accused the president of abusing his power for personal gain on the call, including withholding U.S. military aid from Ukraine to force the investigation.

A rough transcript of the call did not show a quid pro quo with the investigation request, but Democrats argue that the threat was understood and part of an ongoing pressure campaign of “shadow” foreign policy conducted by Mr. Giuliani.

Mr. Trump wanted the probe of the Bidens because Hunter Biden landed a high-paying job on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company, despite having no experience in the energy field while his father was leading Obama White House policy in that graft-riddled country.

The former vice president recently boasted of getting Ukraine‘s chief prosecutor fired in spring 2016 by threatening to block a $1 billion U.S. loan guarantee. The prosecutor was widely viewed as not doing enough to combat corruption. But the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, also was looking into corruption allegations against Burisma and the Ukrainian oligarch running the company.

Mr. Trump also wanted Ukraine to look into a missing Democratic National Committee server that Russia hacked during the 2016 presidential race. An American cybersecurity company called CrowdStrike examined the server to probe the hack, but it disappeared before it could be handed over to the FBI. Mr. Trump subscribes to an unsubstantiated theory that the server ended up in Ukraine.

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