Lead House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) led his opening argument in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Wednesday by citing allegations of “Russia collusion” that have been debunked.
Schiff tried to argue that the Senate had a duty to remove President Trump from office for allegedly inviting foreign interference by Ukraine in the 2020 presidential election because he supposedly invited Russia to interfere in 2016.
We also took this step with the knowledge that this was not the first time the president solicited foreign interference in our elections. In 2016, then-candidate Trump implored Russia to hack his opponent’s email account, something that the Russian military agency did only hours later.
Schiff was referring to a press conference in July 2016 at which Trump joked about Russia finding the approximately 33,000 emails that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had deleted from her illicit private email server. Trump made the joke after being badgered by the press to comment on allegations that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee’s email server. The Clinton campaign had blamed Russia — and had blamed Trump as well.
Trump said (emphasis added):
So it is so farfetched. It’s so ridiculous. Honestly I wish I had that power. I’d love to have that power but Russia has no respect for our country.
And that’s why — if it is Russia, nobody even knows this, it’s probably China, or it could be somebody sitting in his bed.They probably have her 33,000 e-mails that she lost and deleted because you’d see some beauties there.
I have nothing to do with Putin. I’ve never spoken to him. I don’t know anything about him other than he will respect me. He doesn’t respect our president. And if it is Russia — which it’s probably not, nobody knows who it is — but if it is Russia, it’s really bad for a different reason, because it shows how little respect they have for our country, when they would hack into a major party and get everything. But it would be interesting to see — I will tell you this — Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens. That’ll be next. Yes, sir…
That is what the Obama administration, and now the House Democrats, turned into an invitation to interfere in the 2016 election. In Schiff’s words, “then-candidate Trump implored Russia to hack his opponent’s email account.” But
Trump said nothing about hacking. He was talking about Russia finding her emails — something that public reports suggested might already have happened, given the lack of security on Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
Schiff actually played a clip of the press conference, falsely referring to it as a “rally,” as if Trump deliberately planned to make a statement inviting Russia to do something. The true context — a press conference where Trump was repeatedly asked about Russia, and where he was clearly making a joke at the media’s expense– is crucial.
In 2017, Democrats pressed successfully for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate “Russia collusion.” Schiff personally declared in public that there was “direct evidence” and “abundant circumstantial evidence” of it.
But when Mueller released his report, he found the opposite: ““[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Democrats were unable to let go of their expectation that Mueller would provide the basis for impeachment. As Politico reported on August 1 — more than a week before the so-called “whistleblower” wrote to Schiff about the Ukraine call — a majority of Democrats already supported impeaching the president based on Mueller’s report.
The articles of impeachment themselves refer to “Russia collusion,” referring to “President Trump’s previous invitations of foreign interference in United States elections,” as if that were somehow an established fact.
Likewise, Schiff argued in the Senate that Trump’s phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky the day after Mueller testified in Congress — a call in which Trump never once mentioned the 2020 election — was “soliciting foreign interference, again.” As Breitbart News has noted (original emphasis): “They can’t prove either Russia collusion or Ukraine collusion, but they have what seems, to them, a pattern. Ukraine proves Russia collusion.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.