On Friday, Democratic House impeachment managers, led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, finished stating their case that President Donald Trump should be convicted in the Senate’s impeachment trial. A member of the president’s legal team, Jay Sekulow, announced that the defense plans to focus on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, and their allegedly inappropriate dealings in Ukraine.
The strategy appears to have changed. According to a new report from The Hill, the defense is shifting its focus to Schiff in what appears to be an effort to cast doubt on the top Democrat’s credibility. On Saturday, during their opening argument, Trump’s lawyers relentlessly attacked the impeachment leader, portraying him as an overzealous prosecutor determined to take down the president at all costs.
The defense team played video clips of the top Democrat, claiming that Trump conspired with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election — which, former special counsel Robert Mueller concluded, did not happen — contrasting his statements about Russian election interference with his claims about Trump’s actions toward Ukraine.
Trump’s lawyers also played a clip of Schiff stating that his team has “not spoken directly” with the White House whistleblower, a claim debunked by fact-checkers. They also showed Schiff’s dramatized interpretation of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
-"More than circumstantial evidence" of collusion
-Nunes memo was false
-FISA process was fine
-The "Whistleblower" would testify
-"We haven't spoken… with the 'Whistleblower'"
-Parodied @POTUS' call
-"Mr. Z" referred to Zelensky
But today we're supposed to trust him? pic.twitter.com/NELzVp2usX
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) January 22, 2020
According to some, the strategy is working. Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming told The Hill that Schiff was uncomfortable during the presentation. “I know the press couldn’t see his face. But the blood drained from Adam Schiff’s face as they played that video and his made-up words,” he said.
Taking aim at Schiff, Patrick Philbin, deputy counsel to Trump, accused House Democrats of basing their case on “inferences,” and not on evidence. “Chairman Schiff has made so much of the House’s case about the credibility of interpretations that the House managers want to place on — not hard evidence — but on inferences,” he said.
Schiff anticipated the offensive, stating before Trump’s team even had a chance to attack him that “thing you’ll hear from the president’s team is, attack the managers. Especially that Schiff guy. He’s the worst.”
After the president’s legal team wrapped up their opening argument, Schiff told reporters that they failed to “contest the basic architecture of this scheme,” not even addressing the House Democrats’ case against Trump.
According to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Trump’s legal team’s focus on Schiff is not surprising, given that they appear to be determined to “look for diversions.”
“That’s what they do,” Schumer said.