In recent days, President Donald Trump has suggested that Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, should be arrested for “treason” and charged with “lying to Congress” for mischaracterizing Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Trump claims Schiff’s opening remarks at a recent House intelligence committee hearing on the whistleblower complaint against him were “illegally made up.” Schiff said his retelling of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky was partly “in parody.”
We’ll leave it for readers to judge whether it was immediately clear that Schiff was purposefully giving his own dramatic representation that didn’t completely square with the facts. But here’s what we found about the statements the politicians have made about each other:
Trump said Schiff “actually took words and made it up.” That’s correct. Schiff didn’t give Trump’s exact words — a verbatim transcript isn’t available. Nor does Schiff give the exact words in a White House-released memo of the call, which was based on notes and recollections of staff.
Schiff said in his opening statement, and in TV interviews, that Trump had asked Zelensky to “make up” or “manufacture” dirt on Trump’s potential 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. That’s not accurate. Trump asked Zelensky to investigate, not provide false information.
The president said in a tweet that Schiff’s comments “bore NO relationship to what I said on the call.” That’s incorrect. There are some parts of the chairman’s comments that are similar to the memo of the phone call.
Trump tweeted on Sept. 29 that Schiff should be “questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason.” But “treason,” defined by the Constitution, is giving “aid and comfort” to “enemies” of the United States, or “levying war” against the U.S. It does not apply to political speech.