As he interviewed House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Sunday’s edition of This Week, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos invoked a quote from James Madison in an effort to make the case that President Trump should be impeached for his commutation of Roger Stone’s prison sentence. Throughout the conversation, Stephanopoulos acted as if he still held one of his previous positions: White House communications director for Democratic President Bill Clinton.
Apparently, Stephanopoulos forgot that his new position of ABC News journalist required him to act as an objective truth-seeker as opposed to a partisan advocate. Stephanopoulos read aloud a quote from James Madison at the Constitutional Convention in 1788: “If the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds to believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him, they can remove him if found guilty.” Using that quote as a pretext, Stephanopoulos asked Schiff “Is this an impeachable offense?”
Stephanopoulos also referenced a quote from Schiff’s colleague Hakeem Jeffries claiming that “the President and Stone can still be indicted once Donald Trump leaves office” before asking Schiff “should Joe Biden ask his Attorney General to take that step if he indeed does become president?”
For his part, Schiff used his appearance on This Week to recycle outdated talking points about how Trump “urged the Russians to hack Hillary’s e-mails” and invoked comparisons of the Trump-Russia probe to Watergate. According to Schiff, what Trump did was actually worse than any actions Nixon took because “the Republicans at that time would not have stood for this and Nixon understood that.” Schiff contrasted the Republicans of the Watergate era with the Republicans of today, who “won’t defend the rule of law.”
As the segment continued, Schiff mentioned that he warned Republicans during the impeachment process that “the damage he could do between now and Election Day could be severe” if he was not removed from office. At this point, Schiff blamed Trump for the deaths of 130,000 Americans because of coronavirus.
It should not come as a surprise that Schiff was allowed to go on these factually challenged rants without any pushback from the anchor. It appears as if Stephanopoulos has decided to turn his show into a platform for Democratic politicians to say whatever they want. Just two weeks ago, Stephanopoulos sat there and did nothing as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spouted off similar conspiracy theories about Trump and Russia.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Sunday’s edition of This Week is below. Click “expand” to read more.
This Week With George Stephanopoulos
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Roger Stone was treated very unfairly. Roger Stone was brought into this witch hunt, this whole political witch hunt, and the Mueller scam. It’s a scam, because it’s been prov…proven false and he was treated very unfairly, just like General Flynn is treated unfairly, just like Papadopoulos was treated unfairly. They’ve all been treated unfairly. And what I did, what I did, I will tell you this, people are extremely happy because in this country, they want justice. And Roger Stone was not treated properly. So, I’m very happy with what I did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump on commuting Roger Stone’s sentence. The President’s late Friday move to reward his longtime friend is drawing plenty of fire as well, including the first public statement from Robert Mueller in more than a year. In a Washington Post essay, Mueller defended his Russia investigation and Stone’s prosecution: “When a subject lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of the government’s efforts to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable…Because his sentence has been commuted, he will not go to prison but his conviction stands.” And we are joined now by the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff. Chairman Schiff, thank you for joining us this morning. Stone was convicted in part for false statements he made to your Committee, what’s your response to the President?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: I think anyone who cares about the rule of law in this country is nauseated by the fact that the President has commuted the sentence of someone who willfully lied to Congress, covered up for the President, intimidated witnesses, obstructed the investigation. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican. This should be offensive to you if you care about the rule of law and you care about justice. Let’s remember, George, that Roger Stone was the intermediary, he was the link between Donald Trump and Trump campaign and Russian intelligence, the same Russian intelligence unit that hacked Donald Trump’s opponents’ e-mails. He was the link with their cut-out, WikiLeaks, as well, through which they published these. And Donald Trump was desperate to get his hands on these e-mails, he urged the Russians to hack Hillary’s e-mails. He touted them when they did; over 100 times on the campaign trail. He thought they were central to his victory, and this…this effort to get and use foreign assistance is what Roger Stone had information on and he lied to cover up and protect the President and the President through this commutation is basically saying, “if you lie for me, if you cover up for me, if you have my back, then I will make sure that you get a get out of jail free card.” Other Americans, different standard. Friends of the President’s, accomplices of the President, they get off scot-free.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What if any though, if anything though can you do about it? I know Speaker Pelosi has said the House will move legislation to ensure that no President can pardon or commute the sentence of someone who’s trying to shield the President. But even if the House passes it, it’s not going in the Senate, anywhere in the Senate right now. And wouldn’t it likely be found unconstitutional if it became law?
SCHIFF: Well, there are things that we can do to discourage the abuse of the pardon power, the commutation power. I introduced a bill months ago, for example, that would say that if the President pardons someone in a case in which they’re a witness, subject, or target, the complete investigative files in that case will be provided to Congress, so that Congress can evaluate whether this is yet another act of obstruction of justice. So, that we can do. But you point out a very important problem, George, which is responsible, in part, for the commutation of this sentence and that is Republicans won’t stand up for the rule of law, won’t stand up for the independence of the Justice Department. It shouldn’t matter but this was a Republican-led investigation that Roger Stone lied to, the Committee was then chaired by a Republican, and here you have no more than a couple Republicans willing to say a single word about someone who came in before Congress and lied to them, intimidated witnesses, and obstructed them. And why? Because he did it to cover up for a President of their party. This is the distinction between now and Watergate. The Republicans at that time would not have stood for this and Nixon understood that. But Donald Trump understands that he has these Republicans cowed. They won’t stand up to him, they won’t defend the rule of law. And…and that means that we will have to wait until next year to pass this legislation to discourage further abuses of the pardon or commutation powers.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Of course, the other possible remedy is impeachment. I actually want to bring out a quote from James Madison, 1788 Constitutional Convention, talking about the President’s pardon power. He said, “If the President be connected in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds to believe that he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty.” Now, you still have the same issue with Republicans now being opposed to impeachment but is this an impeachable offense?
SCHIFF: It’s an impeachable offense if you abuse the pardon power to protect yourself from criminal liability. But again, George, if the Republicans won’t even say a word of course they’re not going to vote to impeach and convict. We already presented a case with overwhelming evidence and they refused to convict then and indeed, of course, during that impeachment we warned that if they left him in office knowing that he had committed impeachable offenses, that the damage he could do between now and Election Day could be severe. And here we are now, 130,000 Americans dead, we had no idea just how bad the damage would be. But nonetheless, we knew the damage would be grave.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your…your colleague Hakeem Jeffries has said the President and Stone can still be indicted once Donald Trump leaves office. Should Joe Biden ask his Attorney General to take that step if he indeed does become president?
SCHIFF: You know, that will be a decision, I think, that Joe Biden will have to make. Considering the circumstances in the country at that time, I don’t envy the difficulty of that decision. But you know, for example, if you just look at the campaign fraud scheme the President was involved. The Southern District of New York, U.S. Attorney’s office indicted Michael Cohen for being directed and coordinated to commit this fraud scheme. Well, the individual number one who did the directing and coordinating was the President of the United States. The Justice Department thought that Michael Cohen should go to jail for that, what’s the argument not to have the person who did the directing and coordinating go to jail? But that will be a decision Joe Biden will have to make.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, I do want to talk about this COVID crisis. You’re from Los Angeles, one of the hot spots right now in the country. And there’s more talk about a possible, another stimulus package coming in the House later this month. Are you confident you can get something done before the House goes on recess and what more do we need to do to get this virus under control?
SCHIFF: We have to get something done. We need to ramp up our testing and our tracing, we need the ability to treat those who get sick and isolate those who carry the virus. And we need to help Americans who are really suffering and hanging on right now by a thin financial thread. That is likely to get worse. Unemployment compensation, in terms of the federal extended benefits, are going to be cut off. The aid to businesses, small businesses, may be cut off, if the Republicans still refuse to act. Now, will they continue in the face of such misery and disease and death, refuse to act? I…I certainly hope not. I think they will be compelled to. But I think they’re going to do far too little given the economic circumstances and given this dire health threat to the American people. So, I’m desperately concerned as concerned as you hear from the health experts. I’m concerned that…that the Republicans in Congress will not rise to the challenge of this virus and we will have more economic suffering and more death than…than necessary. It didn’t have to be this way. But both the combination of the President’s incompetent response and the Republican unwillingness to step up to the plate and provide the resources for a fulsome answer to that virus has left us where we are.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chairman Schiff, thanks very much for your time this morning.