It takes a fair bit of digging into this Daily Beast article to get to Adam Schiff’s attempt to backpedal from being caught in a series of prevarications. The article’s headline emphasizes that Donald Trump had decided to “take a hatchet to Adam Schiff,” and talks about Trump’s strategy to make the House Intel chair the issue. However, Schiff’s admission that he’d taken a hatchet to the truth first only emerges in the eighth paragraph, despite being an apparent exclusive for TDB:
Schiff had previously denied that his staff had contact with the whistleblower before the complaint was flagged for them by the Intelligence Community’s Inspector General. On Wednesday, he said that he did not know definitively at the time if the complaint had been authored by the same whistleblower who had approached his staff. But he acknowledged that he “should have been much more clear.”
“We try not to confirm when people have come in. I was really thinking along the lines of wanting to get him to come in to testify,” Schiff told The Daily Beast. “I regret that I wasn’t much more clear.”
Such nuance is unlikely to win converts inside the White House where anger among senior staff seems to be firmly directed at the congressman and driven by a belief that his inaccuracies are covered more sympathetically than the president’s. One senior aide even proclaimed that Trump was “far more focused” on Schiff than he was on the identity of the whistleblower himself.
Such nuance is actually not all that nuanced at all. The New York Times article reports clearly enough that it wasn’t a question of timing for the appearance. The whistleblower worked with the committee to formalize the complaint, and Schiff had knowledge of it long before he acknowledged such:
The Democratic head of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, learned about the outlines of a C.I.A. officer’s concerns that President Trump had abused his power days before the officer filed a whistle-blower complaint, according to a spokesman and current and former American officials…
The C.I.A. officer approached a House Intelligence Committee aide with his concerns about Mr. Trump only after he had had a colleague first convey them to the C.I.A.’s top lawyer. Concerned about how that initial avenue for airing his allegations through the C.I.A. was unfolding, the officer then approached the House aide. In both cases, the original accusation was vague.
The House staff member, following the committee’s procedures, suggested the officer find a lawyer to advise him and file a whistle-blower complaint. The aide shared some of what the officer conveyed to Mr. Schiff. The aide did not share the whistle-blower’s identity with Mr. Schiff, an official said.
Therefore, not only did Schiff know that a whistleblower had approached his staff, but that it was the same complaint and therefore the whistleblower.
Another point ignored in the Daily Beast “hatchet” story is the previous two years of context for hatchet work. This isn’t the first time Schiff has lied in public about what he knows and when he did/didn’t know it. Before the release of the Mueller report in April of this year, Schiff repeatedly insisted that “significant evidence” existed of Trump’s collusion with Russia and that Mueller had already uncovered it. Was all of that “nuance” as well, or does Schiff regret not making himself “more clear” now that Mueller’s report made it all too clear that Schiff was lying about that, too?
It’s legit news that the Trump strategy for fighting impeachment will focus on Schiff’s credibility, of course, even if that’s so obvious a strategy that it’s barely worth highlighting. What seems less legitimate is the use of “hatchet” as a descriptor for Trump’s attacks without even a single mention of Schiff’s prior discredited claims on collusion, as well as this softball mention of Schiff’s attempt to soft-pedal repeated public falsehoods about the nature of the relationship between his committee staff and the whistleblower. One might even call it a hatchet job.
Update: Here’s Nancy Pelosi trying to give Schiff a little cover, but George Stephanopoulos isn’t having it:
Credit to @GStephanopoulos for pushing back and calling this out.
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) October 3, 2019
Also, my friend Jeff Dunetz reminds me that this has more significant implications. House Intelligence Committee rules state that any classified material brought to a committee member has to be shared with both sides immediately. Did Schiff do that? If not, why not?