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Trump: Schiff ‘has not paid the price’ for impeachment; Schiff says remarks meant as a threat

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., at a Capitol Hill press event on Jan. 3, 2018.

JOE GROMELSKI/STARS AND STRIPES

By FELICIA SONMEZ AND ELISE VIEBECK | The Washington Post | Published: January 26, 2020

President Donald Trump escalated his attacks on Rep. Adam Schiff on Sunday, issuing what appears to be a veiled threat against the California Democrat one day before Trump’s team is expected to deliver the crux of its defense in the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history.

“Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man,” Trump tweeted Sunday morning. “He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!”

Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is the lead impeachment manager in the Senate trial.

Schiff responded in an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” saying he believes Trump’s remarks were intended as a threat.

“This is a wrathful and vindictive president; I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” Schiff said in the interview. “And if you think there is, look at the president’s tweets about me today, saying that I should ‘pay a price.’ ”

“Do you take that as a threat?” host Chuck Todd asked.

“I think it’s intended to be,” Schiff replied.

Trump’s targeting of Schiff comes as the president’s attorneys are readying to mount an aggressive defense on Monday.

Democrats are arguing that Trump withheld military aid and an Oval Office meeting to pressure Ukraine’s leaders into announcing investigations of his political rivals, including former vice president Joe Biden, who is a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.

The House impeached Trump in December on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to these allegations and his directive that his administration not cooperate with the House’s investigation.

In a two-hour presentation on Saturday, members of Trump’s legal team argued that the president had valid reasons for withholding the aid to Ukraine, and it sought to plant doubts about both the prosecutors’ case and Schiff.

But in arguing their case, Trump’s attorneys omitted facts, presented claims that lacked context or minimized evidence gathered by House investigators.

Both sides continue to spar over the question of whether the Senate trial will include witnesses. Some key Senate Republicans, already hesitant on the issue, became even more so during the weekend after Schiff referred to a CBS News report in which an anonymous Trump ally was quoted as having warned lawmakers, ‘Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.’ “

Several of those GOP senators — including Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine — have criticized Schiff for referencing the report, maintaining that the White House has not threatened them to vote against calling witnesses.

Schiff on Sunday defended his remarks, arguing that they weren’t personal and were intended simply to highlight the challenge for Republican senators in demonstrating “moral courage to stand up to this president.”

“I want to acknowledge that, and I don’t want to acknowledge it in a way that is offensive to them, but I do want to speak candidly about it,” he said. “And if this weren’t an issue, there wouldn’t be an issue about calling witnesses. If we can’t even get the senators to agree to call witnesses in a trial, it shows you just how difficult that moral courage is.”

He also appeared to play down the significance of a potential Senate vote to acquit Trump, arguing that such a vote would be meaningless if no witnesses are allowed to be called.

“They don’t really contest the president’s scheme. … They just tried to make the case that you don’t need a fair trial here; you can make this go away,” Schiff said of the president’s legal team. “But look, if they’re successful of depriving the country of a fair trial, there is no exoneration.”