Fittingly for a man leading a televised spectacle, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff represents Hollywood. His Southern California district is the ne plus ultra in comprising entertainment royalty. Mr. Schiff is the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager, and he has done his darndest to make a telegenic case against President Donald Trump himself. Even Republicans like Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana have praised his eloquence. And on Thursday evening he added a new flourish, seeming to break down a bit as if overcome by emotion, leading us to wonder whether he will soon be subject to a new presidential nickname.
Mr. Schiff’s performing for the media began long before the current Senate trial spectacle, of course. For years he claimed that there was evidence of collusion between the Kremlin and the 2016 Trump campaign — except that Robert Mueller, in his exhaustive report, later determined that no such evidence could be found. Mr. Schiff even read on the floor of Congress from the utterly discredited Steele dossier, a product full of Russian misinformation.
Oh well, no matter for the ambitious Democratic congressman who has never missed a television hit. Mr. Schiff has now been at center stage during the impeachment spectacle. The former federal prosecutor chairs the House Intelligence Committee, and it was there that the case against the president was birthed. But he has used that role in ways that defy defending.
In September, for instance, Mr. Schiff read a fake transcript of the call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the impeachment centers on. The fake transcript that Mr. Schiff read “I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand? Lots of dirt, on this and on that,” something the president plainly never said. Indeed, Mr. Trump pushed for just the opposite: an actual investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s relationship with the natural gas company Burisma. Mr. Schiff’s fake transcript also included the line “I don’t see much reciprocity here,” another blatant falsehood. It’s painfully obvious from the transcript that there was no quid pro quo between Mr. Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart.
The congressman’s defenders and even he himself later claimed that this was intended as “parody,” but it is obvious that Mr. Schiff intended to muddy the waters. He read a fake transcript into the Congressional Record — and performed it live on television. This was a stunning manipulation and breach of integrity. So too was the hyper-partisan manner in which he ran his committee during the House’s impeachment investigation.
Writing in this newspaper last week, reporter Rowan Scarborough noted Mr. Schiff’s “trail of inaccuracies, conspiracy theories and attempts at obstruction.” During the Russia investigation, Mr. Schiff spread misinformation, much of it sourced to the Steele dossier, widely. And he pursued other, more bizarre lines of inquiry. “The dossier disclosure was not the only time Mr. Schiff welcomed Kremlin claims into the political process,” Mr. Scarborough wrote. “He also sought naked photos of Mr. Trump from Moscow via a politician in Ukraine. He was pranked by two Russian comedians, one of whom posed as a Ukrainian official. During a lengthy phone call, Mr. Schiff eagerly questioned the impostors on the types of compromising photos he could obtain.”
It also appears that Mr. Schiff’s staff midwifed the anonymous whistleblower complaint that spurred the impeachment inquiry — something he has denied despite ample evidence to the contrary. Even The Washington Post, which typically fawns over the congressman, gave him four “Pinocchios” over that claim, indicating, well, a big lie.
President Trump has had his own troubles with the truth at times. It’s a sad commentary on our politics that his leading opponent is himself a major Pinocchio.