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Sunday, January 26, 2020

Schiff, Calling Trump ‘Wrathful and Vindictive,’ Sees Tweet as a Threat

“ Schiff, Calling Trump ‘Wrathful and Vindictive,’ 

By Sheryl Gay Stolberg

In an extraordinary back-and-forth between a president and a congressman, President Trump warned that Representative Adam Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager, “has not paid the price, yet.”

WASHINGTON — Representative Adam B. Schiff, the House’s lead impeachment manager, accused President Trump of trying to threaten him on Twitter and urged Republican senators to find the “moral courage to stand up” to a “wrathful and vindictive president.”

Mr. Trump, writing on Twitter Sunday morning, attacked Mr. Schiff as “a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man,” warning, “He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!”

It was an extraordinary back-and-forth between a member of Congress and a sitting president, coming at a turning point in Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial on charges of high crimes and misdemeanors — the third presidential impeachment trial in American history.

“Look at the president’s tweets about me today saying that I should pay a price,” Mr. Schiff said on the NBC program “Meet the Press.”

“Do you take that as a threat?” asked Chuck Todd, the show’s host.

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

Mr. Schiff has been under fire from Republicans for mentioning a news report during the trial that alleges that the White House had threatened to put their heads “on a pike” if they voted to convict, and he doubled down on that claim Sunday, saying that he merely meant it would require fearlessness on the part of the senators.

On Monday, the Senate will reconvene at 1 p.m. for the president’s legal team to continue its defense. Unless at least four Republicans join with Democrats to vote to expand the scope of the proceedings by bringing in witnesses or documentary evidence, the trial could wrap up as early as this week with Mr. Trump’s expected acquittal.

Mr. Schiff on Sunday also appeared to urge Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who is presiding over the trial, to use his authority to determine whether witnesses might be appropriate, and if so, which ones.

Democrats have been pushing for four witnesses — including John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff — over the strong objections of Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader. Some Republicans are floating the idea of a witness swap in which they would call either former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. or his son Hunter, both of whom Mr. Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate, even though neither has direct knowledge of Mr. Trump’s behavior.

Democrats have opposed such a move, and Mr. Schiff suggested the chief justice should rule on that question.

“We have a very capable justice sitting right behind me who can make decisions about the materiality of witnesses,” Mr. Schiff said, adding: “We trust the Supreme Court justice.”

If history is any guide, Chief Justice Roberts will be reluctant to do so. When President Bill Clinton was tried in the Senate in 1999, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist used his authority sparingly, leaving most questions to the Senate to decide.

Lawmakers on both sides — along with Alan Dershowitz, a consultant to Mr. Trump’s legal team — took to the Sunday morning talk show circuit to make the case for or against Mr. Trump. The president was impeached by the House in December on charges that he abused his oath of office and obstructed Congress by pressuring the leader of Ukraine to investigate his political rivals and then covering it up by concealing evidence from lawmakers.

Mr. Schiff and his team of prosecutors maintain that the president was trying to influence the 2020 election for his personal gain. During an abbreviated session of the Senate on Saturday, the president’s team pushed back hard on that assertion, arguing that it was the Democrats who were trying to undo the results of the 2016 election — and to interfere with the one in 2020.

“They’re asking you to tear up all of the ballots all across the country on your own initiative, take that decision away from the American people,” Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, said of the House managers, adding: “They’re here to perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history, and we can’t allow that to happen.”

Mr. Dershowitz, speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” backed away from an assertion he made in 1998, when Mr. Clinton was facing possible impeachment in the House, that a crime is not needed to remove a president from office. Mr. Trump’s team has argued that he cannot be convicted or removed because he is not accused of violating a law — an argument Mr. Dershowitz said he now agreed with because he had done more research.

“I’ve been immersing myself in dusty old books, and I’ve concluded that no, it has to be a crime,” Mr. Dershowitz said. “That’s what scholars do, that’s what academics do. We do more research.”

Mr. Schiff has emerged as a polarizing figure in the trial. His speech on Thursday telling lawmakers they could “not trust this president to do what is right for this country” went viral — and earned even grudging respect from some Republicans. But on Friday, he invoked a CBS report that cited an anonymous source saying Republican senators had been warned their heads would be “on a pike” if they voted against Mr. Trump.

In so doing, Mr. Schiff angered several centrist or swing-state Republicans — including Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — who are potential votes in favor of having witnesses. The congressman said Sunday that he was not intending to offend.

“It is going to be very difficult for some of these senators to stand up to this president, it really is, there’s no question about it,” he said. “I don’t want to acknowledge it in a way that is offensive to them, but I do want to speak candidly about it — and

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