As the curtain rises on impeachment proceedings, New York Times’ congressional reporters Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Nicholas Fandos introduced readers to the lead Democratic player in a long, flattering profile that portrayed him as more a nerdy Elliot Ness figure than the partisan leaker and liar he proved to be during Russia-gate and the opening moves toward impeachment: “Schiff, a Trump Punching Bag, Takes His Fight to a Bigger Ring.”
That would be Congressman Adam Schiff of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (click “expand”):
The crowd was buzzing with Hollywood types -- the actress Patricia Arquette, the producer Norman Lear -- at a private film screening on Sunset Boulevard one recent Sunday afternoon. But here in liberal America, the biggest celebrity in the room was not someone who makes a living in what people call “the industry.”
It was Representative Adam B. Schiff, the strait-laced former federal prosecutor who was on the brink of prosecuting his biggest defendant yet: President Trump.
These are heady but perilous days for Mr. Schiff, the inscrutable and slightly nerdy chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who is leading the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump. Adored by the left, reviled by the right, he has become a Rorschach test for American politics. Depending on one’s point of view, he is either going to save the republic, or destroy it.
Here in his home district, at the screening of “The Great Hack,” a film about misinformation in the 2016 election, Mr. Lear introduced Mr. Schiff as a “current American hero.” As the audience leapt to its feet in a standing ovation, the congressman emerged from backstage in standard Washington uniform -- navy blazer, white shirt, light blue tie -- his manner as inoffensive as his attire.
Schiff is a Democratic partisan attack dog who spread the phony Russia “collusion” accusation and was widely seen as having leaked damaging anti-Trump falsehoods to the press during the saga. Stolberg and Fandos tried to instill Schiff with an Al Gore vibe of seriousness:
But if Mr. Schiff has a sense of humor (his friends insist he does have a dry one), he rarely shows it in Washington, where he has carefully cultivated his image as the stylistic and substantive opposite of Mr. Trump: calm, measured, reserved and brainy.
In the middle they devoted three paragraphs to admitting some but not all of Schiff’s mistakes (click “expand”):
Mr. Schiff has made some missteps. His dramatized description of the president’s phone call with the leader of Ukraine drew attacks from the president and Republican lawmakers who said he was fabricating evidence -- and surprised even a close friend, Alice Hill, who knows the congressman from their days as young prosecutors in Los Angeles.
And Mr. Schiff’s assertion that he had not had any contact with the whistle-blower who incited the inquiry drew a “false” rating from The Washington Post; the whistle-blower had approached his panel for guidance before filing his complaint. Mr. Schiff conceded he “should have been much more clear” about that.
(Fandos in March 2019 offered a pathetically shallow defense of Schiff: He doesn't look aggressive! His “doughy-faced demeanor hardly evokes an attack dog.” Well that settles it.)
Stolberg and Fandos praised Schiff's star turn in Russia-gate without noting the dud the "scandal" turned out to be:
But it was the election of Mr. Trump that elevated Mr. Schiff’s profile, and made him a sought-after speaker and fund-raiser in Democratic circles. As the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee last term, when Republicans still had the majority, he vigorously investigated Russian election interference and questions around whether the Trump campaign had conspired with hostile foreign actors, becoming the most recognizable public face explaining the biggest story in Washington on national TV. When Democrats won the majority in the House, he helped Ms. Pelosi draft a broad investigative strategy.
The reporters let Schiff close off his own profile by posing as the epitome of reasonableness:
“I feel I’ve become kind of a human focus group,” he said during a panel discussion after the screening here. “People will stop me in the airport in close succession. One will come up to me and say, ‘Are you Adam Schiff? I just want to shake your hand, you’re my hero,’ immediately to be followed by someone else who says, ‘Why are you destroying our democracy?’ ”
The congressman paused for a moment, and concluded that both couldn’t be right, “because last time I checked, I’m the same person.”
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