(CNSNews.com) – House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that it’s “shocked” by the memorandum of President Donald Trump’s phone with Ukraine and the DOJ’s legal opinion drafted to prevent the whistleblower complaint from coming to his committee.
“The notes of the call reflect a conversation far more damning than I or many others had imagined. It is shocking at another level that the White House would release these notes and felt that somehow this would help the president's case or cause, because what those notes reflect is a classic mafia-like shakedown of a foreign leader,” he said.
“They reflect a Ukrainian president who was desperate for U.S. support, for military support, to help that country in a hot war with Putin's Russia, a country that is still occupied by regular Russian forces, and in which people face a very dangerous and continuing and destabilizing action by their aggressive neighbor,” the chairman said.
“At the same time, a president of the United States who, immediately after the Ukraine president expresses the need for further weapons, tells the Ukraine president that he has a favor to ask. The president communicates to his Ukrainian counterpart that the United States has done a lot for Ukraine,” he said.
“We've done an awful lot for Ukraine, more than the Europeans or anyone else has done for Ukraine, but there's not much reciprocity here,” Schiff said, interpreting the president’s phone call. “This is how a mafia boss talks.
“What have you done for us? We've done so much for you, but there's not much reciprocity. I have a favor I want to ask you. What is that favor? Of course the favor is to investigate his political rival, to investigate the Bidens. And it's clear that the Ukraine president understands exactly what it is that is expected of him and is making every effort to mollify the president,” Schiff said.
“What adds another layer of depravity to this conversation is the fact the president of the United States then invokes the attorney general of the United States, as well as his personal lawyer, as emissaries in the case of the attorney general, as an official head of the U.S. Department of Justice that he says will be part and parcel of this,” he said.
Schiff said he can see why the DOJ wouldn’t want the transcript of the call to “see the light of day” and noted that Attorney General William Barr is denying any involvement. He said the DOJ is advancing the claim that the director of national intelligence is not responsible for detecting foreign interference in U.S. elections.
Asked to respond to the White House’s assertion that the call summary shows there was no quid pro quo, Schiff said, “My response is the president of Ukraine brought up his country's need for military assistance, and immediately thereafter, the president of the United States said, ‘I have a favor I want to ask of you,’ and would not let the subject go. There was only one message that president of Ukraine got from that call, and that was, ‘This is what I need, I know what you need,’” he said.
“Like any mafia boss, the president didn't need to say, ‘That’s a nice country you have. It’d be a shame if something happened to it,’ because that was clear from the conversation. There is no quid pro quo necessary to betray your country or oath of office, even though many read this as a quid pro quo. I'm not concerned whether it's a quid pro quo or not,” Schiff said.
“Ukraine understood with this president wanted. He made it abundantly clear. He made it redundantly clear. He had his emissaries making it clear, and Ukraine knew what it needed to do if it wanted to get military assistance, and that is help the president of the United States violate his oath of office,” the congressman said.
When asked what specifically he sees as an impeachable offense, Schiff said:
Well, I think in its most naked form - and this is what our inquiry is going to look into -- the president has now admitted the notes of this call - and we don't even know if these are the complete notes of that call - It indicates the president of the United States shaking down a foreign leader, essentially undermining the national security of this country for a personal political gain, and one that violates his oath of office.
So it is very powerful evidence of that kind of potential impeachable offense, but we want to get the full facts before the American people, and we also want to make sure we take corrective action. And I want to thank the whistle-blower. We still don't know whether this is the subject of the whistleblower’s complaint, but I think this single courageous individual may have had the effect of forcing the White House to provide Ukraine with this funding knowing that these matters were going to come to light.
But this whistle-blower has already had a tremendous impact in exposing wrongdoing of the president of the United States and helping protect our national security in a way that his or her boss was unwilling to do, and by that I mean the director as well as the president of the United States.