House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy blasted Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff as a serial liar on Thursday, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused President Trump of bribery -- as the political war on Capitol Hill escalated alongside the launch of impeachment hearings.
In back-to-back press conferences, Pelosi and McCarthy delivered starkly contrasting accounts of the first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry, with both claiming their respective parties were fighting to protect the U.S. Constitution.
“Democrats are showing great patriotism,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday, praising Schiff, D-Calif., for his “dignity and statesmanship.” “This isn’t about politics or anything political, it’s about patriotism, it’s about honoring our oath of office, and upholding the Constitution.”
She added: “This is something we do with a heavy heart. This is very prayerful, because impeachment is a divisive thing in our country.”
Pelosi went on to accuse the president of “bribery,” citing Wednesday’s public hearing featuring what she called “devastating” witness testimony from State Department official George Kent and U.S. top diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor.
“Bribery—and that is in the Constitution and attached to impeachment proceedings,” Pelosi said. “The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the election—that’s bribery.”
When asked whether bribery would be included as an article of impeachment, Pelosi replied: “We haven’t even made a decision to impeach. That’s what the inquiry is about.”
“I’m saying, [what] the president has admitted to as ‘perfect,’ is bribery,” Pelosi said.
Minutes later, McCarthy, R-Calif., took the podium on the other side of the House, claiming it’s Republicans who are “standing up” for the Constitution.
“Are they doing this for political purposes or are they standing for the Constitution?” McCarthy said. “They came to Congress to impeach the president.”
McCarthy went on to blast Schiff, claiming he “has continued to lie to the American public.”
McCarthy outlined several instances where he believed Schiff had lied—including during the congressional Russia probe and when he “on purpose” delivered a parody reading last month of the transcript of Trump’s now-infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which is at the center of the impeachment inquiry.
That phone call prompted a whistleblower complaint to the Intelligence Community inspector general, and in turn, the impeachment inquiry in the House.
On the call, Trump pressed Zelensky to open an investigation into Ukrainian election meddling in the 2016 presidential race and into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine.
The president’s request came after millions in U.S. military aid to Ukraine had been frozen, which Democrats and witnesses have cited as a quid pro quo arrangement.
Zelensky, though, has said he felt no pressure during the call. The White House has maintained no wrongdoing, and the president has repeatedly said the call was “perfect,” arguing that it contained “no quid pro quo.”
McCarthy also said that Schiff “lied again” when he claimed during the public hearing on Wednesday that he “didn’t know who the whistleblower was.”
“His staff met with the whistleblower, he can claim he did not. They met with the whistleblower before the whistleblower had an attorney and before the whistleblower went to the inspector general,” McCarthy explained. “When he went, you know that the whistleblower did not say that he met with Schiff’s staff.”
Fox News reported last month that the whistleblower did not disclose contact with Schiff’s staff to the intelligence committee inspector general (ICIG).
Schiff’s office acknowledged that the whistleblower had reached out to them before filing a complaint in mid-August, giving Democrats advance warning of the accusations that would lead them to launch an impeachment inquiry days later.
During his attack of Schiff, McCarthy said he does “not think that Schiff is fit to be in the position to run the Intelligence Committee.”
“And yes, I do believe Schiff has spent his entire time in Congress, since the president has been in, trying to impeach him,” McCarthy said. “He’s already written the script and he’s trying to fill it in—he’s been auditioning witnesses in the basement.”
Meanwhile, up next on Friday in the public phase of the impeachment inquiry is former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich, with a number of other hearings with current and former top officials scheduled for next week.