Adam Schiff (D-CA) warns that the President must be removed. 1/24/2020
Transcript (starting at 39:45)
Now, soon members of the body will face the most momentous of decisions. Not, as I said at the outset, between guilt or innocence, but a far more foundational issue: Should there be a fair trial?
Shall the House be able to present its case with witnesses and documents, through the use of subpoenas, as has been the case in every impeachment trial in history?
Now, the president’s lawyers have been making their case outside of this chamber, threatening to stall these proceedings with the assertion of false claims of privilege. Having persuaded this body to postpone consideration of the witnesses and documents, they now appear to be preparing the ground to say it would be too late to consider them next week.
But consider this: Of the hundreds of documents that we have subpoenaed, there is no colorable claim, and none has been asserted. To the degree that you could even make a claim, that claim has been waived. To the degree that even superficially a claim would attach, it does not conceal misconduct.
And what’s more, to the degree there is a dispute over whether a privilege applied, we have a perfectly good judge sitting behind me, empowered by the rules of this body to resolve those disputes. And when the Chief Justice decides where a narrow application of privilege ought to apply, you will still have the power to overrule him. How often do you have the chance to overrule a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court? [Laughter] You have to admit it’s every legislators dream.
So let us not be fooled by the argument it will take too long, or persuaded that the trial must be over before the State of the Union. This is no parking ticket we are contesting, no shoplifting case we are prosecuting; it is a matter of high crimes and misdemeanors. How long is too long to have a fair trial fair? Fair to the President, and fair to the American people.
The American people do not agree on much,but they will not forgive being deprived of the truth — and certainly not because it took a backseat to expediency.
In his pamphlet of 1777, The American Crisis, Thomas Paine wrote:“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”
Is it too much fatigue to call witnesses and have a fair trial? Are the blessings of freedom so meager that we will not endure the fatigue of a real trial, with witnesses and documents?
President Lincoln, in his closing message to Congress in December 1862, said this: “Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.”
I think he was the most interesting president in history. He may be the most interesting person in our history. This man, who started out dirt poor. Dirt poor. Like hundreds of thousands of other people at the time, he had nothing. No money. No education — he educated himself. Educated himself. But he had a brain in that head, a brilliance in that mind, that made him one of the most incredible, not just presidents, but people in history. I think he’s the most interesting character in our history. Out of the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of other Americans at the time, why him? Why him?
I think a lot about history, as I know you do. Sometimes I think about how unforgiving history can be of our conduct. We can do a lifetime’s work, draft the most wonderful legislation, help our constituents, and yet we may be remembered for none of that. But for a single decision, we may be remembered, affecting the course of our country. I believe this may be one of those moments. A moment we never thought we would see. A moment when our democracy was gravely threatened, and not from without but from within.
Russia, too, has a constitution. It’s not a bad constitution. It’s just a meaningless one. In Russia, they have trial by telephone. They have the same ostensible rights we do to a trial. They hear evidence and witnesses. But before the verdict is rendered, the judge picks up the telephone and calls the right person to find out how it’s supposed to turnout. Trial by telephone.
Is that what we have here, trial by telephone? Someone on the other end of the phone, dictating what this trial should look like?
The founders gave us more than words. They gave us inspiration. They may have receded into mythology, but they inspire us still. And more than us, they inspire the rest of the world. They inspire the rest of the world: From their prison cells in Turkey, journalists look to us. From their internment camps in China, they look to us. From their cells in Egypt,those who gathered in Tahrir Square for a better life look to us. From the Philippines,those that were the victims, and their families, of mass extrajudicial killing,they look to us. From Evin prison, they look to us. From all over the world,they look to us.
And increasingly they don’t recognize what they see.
It’s a terrible tragedy for them; it is a worst tragedy for us.
Because there’s nowhere else for them to turn. They’re not going to turn to Russia. They’re not going to turn to China. They’re not going to turn to Europe, with all of its problems.
They look to us, because we are still the indispensable nation.
They look to us, because we have a rule of law.
They look to us, because no one is above that law.
And one of the things that separates us from those people in Evin prison, is the right to a trial. It’s the right to atrial. Americans get a fair trial.
And so I ask you, I implore you, give America a fair trial.
Give America a fair trial.
She is worth it.
(PS, at the suggestion of a commentator, I replaced “Elgin prison” in my transcript with “Evin prison,” the prison for political protesters and dissidents run by the secret police in Iran.)