By Washington Post |

Adam Schiff sounds a lot more open to impeachment than he did a few weeks ago - The Washington Post


Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.). (Andrew Harnik/AP)

By Amber Phillips

Amber Phillips

Reporter for The Fix covering Congress, statehouses

Email Bio Follow

June 24 at 10:42 AM

A powerful member of Congress sounds much more receptive to the growing impeachment caucus within the Democratic Party than he did just a couple of weeks ago.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) still doesn’t support opening an impeachment inquiry into President Trump, a position in line with most congressional leadership, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

But in an interview Sunday on CNN's “State of the Union,” Schiff seemed noticeably more open to it than he has in the recent past.

Let’s start with our baseline of what Schiff said a few weeks ago. Here he is in a June 2 interview with ABC about why he doesn’t support impeachment: “We have an important legislative agenda to try to advance, we have important oversight work we can do outside the context of impeachment, and I think at this point that is still the preferred course.”

Here’s Schiff on Sunday on CNN when asked where he stands now: “Certainly, the administration and the president seem to be doing everything they can, everything they can to push us into an impeachment. And we may get there. We may get there.”

Both times, Schiff stressed he’s not willing to support impeachment. But earlier this month, impeachment seemed distant to Schiff, who emphasized that Democrats have more important things to worry about, such as showing they can govern. It was an answer that seemed designed to shut down impeachment talks without closing the door entirely to them — a tightrope Pelosi is also balancing on.

On Sunday, the possibility that House Democrats may have to impeach Trump seemed much more likely to Schiff, much more in the present. His full quote, after Jake Tapper asked him whether he agreed that Trump would eventually be impeached, is below, with the most relevant parts in bold.

I dont know the answer, Jake.

Certainly, the administration and the president seem to be doing everything they can, everything they can to push us into an impeachment. And we may get there. We may get there.

At this point, as you say, a third of our caucus is there, and two-thirds is not there.

What would get me to that point is, if we get to a final court decision compelling administration to provide testimony and documents, and they still refuse, then I think we're in a full-blown constitutional crisis that would compel that kind of remedy.

I may get there before that point, Jake. So I continue to listen to people that I respect greatly within our caucus, constitutional lawyers like Larry Tribe and others, and weigh this, I think, every day, and have continued discussions with the speaker about it. But, at this point, I’m not prepared to recommend it.

Rep. Schiff on CNN's "State of the Union" on June 23

Two things seemed to be weighing on Schiff. The first is the 78 House Democrats who support opening an impeachment proceeding against Trump.

It’s a number that is steadily growing despite what Pelosi has done to try to stop it, and Schiff appears to be recognizing that. These rank-and-file lawmakers may come from mostly liberal districts, but they are a sizable faction of the caucus, and they have weight in numbers. Over the weekend, while members of Congress were home, three more House Democrats changed their minds and said they support impeachment — or perhaps they already did support it and were able to talk more freely about how they feel after they got out of Washington.

The second fact that appears to be weighing on Schiff is how Trump isn’t cooperating with House Democrats on 20 investigations. He’s been so uncooperative that Schiff seems to think it’s a real possibility that even if the courts tell Trump to hand over documents and witnesses to Congress, he won’t do it. In that case, what else could Congress do but impeach Trump?

Trump’s intransigence on cooperating with Congress is why a Pelosi ally, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), changed her mind last week and supported impeachment. She made a common argument that launching an impeachment proceeding against Trump will help Democrats win in court to get documents, because it strengthens their need for such information.

“I think that our leadership has done a good job,” Schakowsky said in a video. “But instituting the impeachment inquiry will actually enable us to get more information, more documents.”

[The case for and against impeachment]

Schakowsky was a significant defection from Pelosi. Schiff isn’t defecting, but he’s one to watch. He is one of the most powerful members of Congress. He chairs the Intelligence Committee, which is investigating, among other things, the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, whether Trump obstructed justice, and whether he’s making foreign policy decisions based on his bank account. He’s also one of the most prominent House Democrats, frequently a guest on cable news — and a feature of Trump’s Twitter feed.

He’s not the only powerful House Democrat who seems to be wavering on impeachment. Recently, House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (S.C.), the No. 3 House Democrat and a member of Pelosi’s inner circle, said he thinks that impeachment proceedings are inevitable. He later tried to walk that back to be more in line with Pelosi.

[5 lawmakers to watch to see if House Democrats impeach Trump]

When you take Schiff and Clyburn in context of the nearly 80 House Democrats, including several vulnerable members and at least one Pelosi ally, who support impeachment proceedings, it suggests that the growing pro-impeachment caucus is having an impact on some of the members who will ultimately decide if the House impeaches Trump.