As his impeachment inquiry heats up, Donald Trump appears to be increasingly embracing his latent authoritarian streak. He’s been constantly attacking Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff (D-CA), accusing him of treason and floating the idea that he should be arrested for nothing more than paraphrasing the coercive phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky which precipitated the current impeachment proceedings.
During an Oval Office appearance with Finnish President Sauli Väinämö Niinistö today, Trump once again suggested that Schiff has done something “criminal” and “treasonous” while calling him a “low life” who should be “forced to resign from Congress.” The implication on some level is that President Trump wants his political enemy put to death, given that that is the punishment for “treason.”
Trump also repeated his bizarre claim that his impeachable call with Zelensky was in fact “perfect.”
The entire rambling performance should be seen as embarrassing not only for Trump but for our entire country. This is not the kind of gutter rhetoric a president should be engaged in, especially when seated beside a respected foreign leader.
TRUMP on Adam Schiff: "They should look at him for treason." pic.twitter.com/AwttLmIHmo
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 2, 2019
Yesterday, Trump engaged in similar behavior. He took to Twitter to smear Schiff and absurdly insisted that he should be “brought up on charges” for his Congressional reading of the Ukraine call transcript. The president wants to convince his followers that Schiff dishonestly put words in his mouth. In reality, a cursory viewing of Schiff’s reading shows that he was simply trying to explain the subtext of the phone call and clearly wasn’t trying to pass his words off as a verbatim reading of Trump’s conversation.
Trump whined that Schiff’s reading was “very dishonest and bad for him,” but the fact is the call itself was incredibly bad and there’s no real way to convincingly spin it. The President of the United States of America tried to exploit the power of the Oval Office to strongarm a foreign leader into damaging a possible 2020 opponent. One struggles to imagine a more flagrant, gross abuse of power.
“This should never be allowed,” Trump ended his little outburst, but that sentence would much better apply to his own behavior rather than Schiff’s. The Chairman did nothing wrong, and this president is so desperate to save himself from impeachment that he’s willing to float the idea of locking up his political rivals like some tinpot dictator.
Why isn’t Congressman Adam Schiff being brought up on charges for fraudulently making up a statement and reading it to Congress as if this statement, which was very dishonest and bad for me, was directly made by the President of the United States? This should never be allowed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2019
It’s impossible to know if Trump is really considering forcing his Department of Justice to go after Schiff, but given his repeatedly demonstrated disregard for the law, one can’t rule it out. This administration is rapidly spiraling out of control and the president must be removed from office before he inflicts any more irreparable damage on our Republic.
Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.