If anyone thinks Democrat lawmakers — during the next two weeks of congressional recess — will be taking time off from their push toward the possible impeachment of President Donald Trump, they’ve got another think coming.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), for one, has already announced his first “impeachment town hall” for constituents in his district in the days ahead.
A former candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination who quit that race in July, Swalwell is a member of the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees.
“The president sought to use the powers of the United States government to pressure a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent — an abuse of office and a threat to national security,” Swalwell claimed in a statement.
“I want to update my constituents on what’s happening in Congress, and answer their questions about the path forward,” he also said.
So — he’s holding an impeachment-focused town hall on October 1 at a high school in California’s 15th District.
He’s even hosting a special guest at the event — none other than a major player during the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s that took down former President Richard M. Nixon.
“Our special guest at this town hall will be author, lecturer, and columnist John Dean,” Swalwell announced, noting that Dean “served as White House counsel for President Richard Nixon from July 1970 to April 1973.”
“Dean played a role in the cover-up of the Watergate scandal, pleaded guilty to felony obstruction of justice, and became a key witness for the Watergate special prosecutor.”
“He testified to the House Judiciary Committee this past June about parallels between the Mueller report and Watergate,” Swalwell’s statement about Dean also said.
Built into the statement but not explicitly stated: Nixon was about to be impeached — but resigned once he knew that would happen. He left office in disgrace, the first president ever to do so, in August 1974. (He was ultimately pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford.)
“This event is free and open to all 15th Congressional District residents,” Swalwell said about his “impeachment town hall.” “The district includes San Ramon, Dublin, Pleasanton, Livermore, Sunol, Hayward, Union City, Castro Valley, San Lorenzo, Cherryland, Ashland and Fairview as well as parts of Fremont and Danville.” The event will be held in Union City, California.
Meanwhile, in related news, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) on Friday introduced a resolution in the House condemning and censuring Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for the remarks he made during a televised hearing on Thursday.
The Democrat actually read a “parody” version of a phone call that President Donald Trump had with the Ukraine president back in July.
Schiff “read a statement that was blatantly false, had no corresponding evidence, nor relationship to the actual transcript of President Trump’s conversation,” Biggs said in a video posted to Twitter, as NBC News and other outlets reported.
“What the chairman did is he read something that was made-up, totally false, and later had to excuse it by saying it was a parody,” said Biggs.
Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, opened the Thursday hearing in the presence of an invited guest — Joseph Maguire, acting director of national intelligence. Schiff then dove immediately into what he later called a “parody” of what the president said and requested during the July 25 phone call, a transcript of which the White House had released earlier this week.
Trump himself called for Schiff’s resignation after that “parody” exercise, which was widely condemned.
See his tweet just below:
Rep. Adam Schiff totally made up my conversation with Ukraine President and read it to Congress and Millions. He must resign and be investigated. He has been doing this for two years. He is a sick man!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2019
Here is part of Schiff’s parody of Trump: “We’ve been very good to your country, very good,” he began, as if he were Trump talking.
“No other country has done as much as we have, but you know what? I don’t see much reciprocity here,” he continued. “I hear what you want, I have a favor I want from you, though, and I’m gonna say this only seven times, so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand, lots of it.”
Schiff then emphasized he was illustrating a point. “This is in some [measure] what the president was trying to communicate with the president of Ukraine,” claimed Schiff. “It would be funny if it wasn’t such a graphic betrayal of the president’s oath of office.”
The resolution by Biggs, the new head of the House Freedom Caucus, states that Schiff’s comments were an “egregiously false and fabricated retelling” that “had no relationship to the call itself,” as The Hill pointed out. He alleged that “these actions of Chairman Schiff misled the American people, bring disrepute upon the House of Representatives, and make a mockery of the impeachment process, one of this chamber’s most solemn constitutional duties.”
The Biggs resolution also contains language alleging that members of the House Intelligence Committee “have lost faith” in Schiff’s ability to be objective as chairman — and that his remarks hampered the committee’s ability to carry out oversight responsibilities.
The Schiff comments have continued to prompt outrage. Among other comments, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called out Schiff for his use of “fake dialogue” to describe the president’s phone call.
Online readers have been reacting as well. One wrote, “Schiff should be in jail” for his behavior. Another said, “It may very well be that it is time for the American people to exercise our duty to the Constitution and protect our country from domestic enemies!”
“This man has sold his soul to try and impeach our president with made-up lies,” said another about Schiff.
“I immediately thought that this was out of place and dangerous,” wrote yet another person. “Anybody watching, without reading [the] actual transcript, could have been swayed, especially if that’s the only part they watched.”
Meanwhile, an article in The New York Times on Thursday revealed details about the whistleblower who’s at the center of the current Capitol Hill frenzy. Pushback against the Gray Lady is emerging after many people insisted the publication went too far.
Calls to cancel subscriptions to The Times “reached fever pitch” on Thursday evening, noted Fox News, after outrage emerged about the paper’s decision to identify the Trump whistleblower as a CIA official.
In an article published earlier on Thursday, The Times let it be known the whistleblower at the center of the current D.C. showdown is a male CIA officer — one who had been detailed to the White House.
The “exclusive details” came out in a report based on corroborated accounts of three unnamed sources — not the whistleblower himself.
The Times also said lawyers for the whistleblower refused to confirm he worked for the CIA, as Fox News also reported, and said that publishing information about him was “dangerous.” (Fox News pointed out it had not confirmed The Times’ report.)
The whistleblower filed a complaint that alleged the White House covered up a July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — in which, during the conversation, Trump asked the foreign leader to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. Zelensky said he was not “pushed” in any way and described it as a normal phone conversation.
The Times’ identification of the whistleblower claims to be the most publicly known information about the individual.
So many people online became angry with the publication’s decision that many called it out online — and the item became a number-one trending topic, the hashtag #CancelNYT.
Executive editor Dean Baquet explained the news outlet reported “limited information” about this individual’s identity so that readers could “make their own judgments about whether or not he is credible.”
Federal whistleblowers, however — as Axios noted on Friday morning — are protected by law.
“Readers and some in the national intelligence community expressed concern that revealing too much detail in media reports could put the officer’s life and reputation in danger and deter future whistleblowers.”
Fred Fleitz, a former CIA analyst, raised some important questions about the whistleblower beginning on Thursday.
In comments shared Friday morning with LifeZette, Fleitz said, “The way this complaint was written suggested the author had a lot of help. I know from my work on the House Intel Committee staff that many whistleblowers go directly to the [intelligence] oversight committees.”
So “did this whistleblower first meet with House Intel committee members?” Fleitz asked. “It is therefore important that Congress find out where this complaint came from,” he added. “What did House and Senate intel committee Democratic members and staff know about it and when? Did they help orchestrate this complaint?”
Fleitz added he’s “troubled” by the complaint. He’s wondering “how an intelligence officer could file it over something a president said to a foreign leader. How could this be an intelligence matter?”
“I am very familiar with transcripts of presidential phone calls, since I edited and processed dozens of them when I worked for the NSC [National Security Council],” said Fleitz. “I also know a lot about intelligence whistleblowers from my time with the CIA.”
As he also wrote in an op-ed published in The New York Post, “My suspicions grew this [Thursday] morning when I saw the declassified whistleblowing complaint. It appears to be written by a law professor and includes legal references and detailed footnotes.”
“It also has an unusual legalistic reference on how this complaint should be classified.”
“From my experience, such an extremely polished whistleblowing complaint is unheard of,” Fleitz added. “This document looks as if this leaker had outside help, possibly from congressional members or staff.” However, the “whistleblower,” as has been explained, never heard Trump’s call himself — and relied only on reports from another person (or several people). So it was hearsay.
That scenario raises far more questions than Democratic lawmakers have been willing to admit — but one that Republicans have reminded them of and will, repeatedly. It raises questions about who those “reporters” of Trump’s phone call might be, what their political leanings are (one can imagine), and how and under what circumstances they fed information to the “whistleblower.”
Share your comments on all of this below.