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Schiff: Romney displayed ‘moral courage’ in breaking with GOP on conviction

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was lead House manager in President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial. He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the Senate’s decision to acquit Trump of both impeachment charges, the “moral courage” he feels Sen. Mitt Romney displayed by breaking with his party and why the choice not to call witnesses sets a “dangerous precedent.”

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to a man who has been central to the impeachment of President Trump from the start.

    In his first interview following today's historic vote, Congressman Adam Schiff of California joins me now. He is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He was the lead House manager during the impeachment trial.

    Chairman Schiff, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    I don't know if you heard, but Kellyanne Conway is saying, in effect, the president feels exonerated, and that all he was doing in his interactions with Ukraine was seeking to root out corruption.

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    Well, that's, of course, not what the senators found.

    On a bipartisan basis, you had many Republican senators acknowledge that, not only did the president do something wrong, but he held up hundreds of millions of dollars of aid in an effort to pressure Ukraine into doing political investigations into his opponent.

    I have to say, I was really — I found it breathtaking to listen to Senator Romney today, to see that display of moral courage, to see someone put country above party.

    I said earlier in the week, on Monday, during our closing arguments, that a single person, a single vote could change the course of history. I think Mitt Romney did that today.

    I know, for many of us, we will look back on that vote. When we find ourselves in a situation calling for us to put country first in really difficult votes, we will be inspired by the courage that he showed today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, at the same time, Congressman Schiff, you have put a lot of effort, a lot of energy into this process over the last several months.

    And to see it fall, the articles of impeachment fall, one of them 19 votes short, the other one 20 votes short of convicting the president, removing him from office, what does that say to you?

  • Rep. Adam Schiff:

    Well, what it says — and I talked about this earlier in the week — is, we are at a place right now where one political party is willing to tolerate a level of misconduct in a president unsurpassed in history, as long as it is a president of their party.

    That is a very dangerous trend for the country. The fact that so many senators of that party were not willing to fulfill their oath in the same way that Mitt Romney did, I think, is a real indictment of today's GOP.

    But notwithstanding that, we felt in the House that we needed to do our constitutional duty and appeal to that optimism the founders put in our ability to have self-governance.

    I think Mitt Romney validated that faith of the founders.

    And I will say also there are a number of Democratic senators from very difficult states who made an equally courageous decision today. So, I find myself at the end of this trial very optimistic about the future.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you think there is something you and the managers could have done differently, argued differently, in order to have a different outcome here?

  • Rep. Adam Schiff:

    I don't.

    In fact, I think, had we done anything differently than we did, we wouldn't have enjoyed the unanimous support of the Democratic senators and been able to convince a former presidential nominee, the former leader of the Republican Party, that his oath required him to convict Donald Trump for such an egregious abuse of power.

    So we feel that we put the best case forward possible. We appealed to the best instincts of the senators. And I'm just tremendously moved that one of them displayed — really, several displayed such incredible courage.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But two other questions.

    Number one, was this a fair trial? You — your side very much wanted there to be witnesses, more evidence. You didn't get that. Was — I mean, is this in the end of process that the American people deserved?

  • Rep. Adam Schiff:

    No.

    And the American people recognize that. Overwhelming majorities of Americans wanted to hear from witnesses. They wanted to have John Bolton testify. They recognized that it is not a trial if you have an opening statement and a closing argument and nothing in between.

    So, we made unfortunate impeachment history, when the senators decided to have the first impeachment trial without witnesses. So it wasn't fair. It makes it all the more remarkable that we had senators show the courage that they did, you know, as Mitt Romney did, as a number of Democratic senators did.

    But, no, I think history will record the Senate didn't live up to its constitutional responsibility, didn't try the case, instead, just heard arguments in the case.

    And that is, I think, a dangerous precedent for the future.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And where does the House go from here, Congressman, with — we are hearing that there are going to be — that there are calls to subpoena John Bolton, the president's former national security adviser.

    Will there be more investigations? Could there be more impeachment charges brought against the president in the House?

  • Rep. Adam Schiff:

    We have made no decisions about any next steps.

    We wanted to take this trial to completion, make the best case possible. I think we did that. I think we got the best result, under the circumstances of a trial/nontrial, that we possibly could.

    It's a — now a bipartisan vote to convict the president, even though it didn't meet the two-thirds threshold.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But you are leaving the door open?

  • Rep. Adam Schiff:

    Well, I am not saying one way or another. I really can't underscore enough that we didn't look beyond the end of this trial.

    And so what we will do is, we will get together as a caucus with our leadership and discuss what the future holds. But we were not prepared to make any judgments about that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Chairman Adam Schiff, who was the lead House manager in the impeachment trial of President Trump, thank you so much.

  • Rep. Adam Schiff:

    Thank you.

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