Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager, warned on Monday that if President Trump's dealings with Ukraine are not impeachable offenses, then nothing would stand in his way from attempting bolder power grabs -- going so far to claim Trump could use Alaska as a bargaining chip with "the Russians" for support in 2020.
Schiff floated the far-flung hypothetical during his closing arguments at the Senate impeachment trial. He appealed to Republicans who have acknowledged Trump's wrongdoing in the Ukraine matter to prevent a "runaway presidency."
"If abuse of power is not impeachable ... Trump could offer Alaska to the Russians in exchange for support in the next election or decide to move to Mar-a-Lago permanently and let Jared Kushner run the country, delegating to him the decision whether to go to war," Schiff said. "Because those things are not necessarily criminal, this argument would allow that he could not be impeached for such abuses of power. Of course, this would be absurd. More than absurd, it would be dangerous."
The U.S. purchased what is now Alaska from Russia in 1867 for a transfer price of about $120 million in today's dollars. William Seward, who was secretary of state under President Lincoln, had long pushed for the deal. Alaska became the 49th state on Jan. 3, 1959.
Trump's defense countered that the Democrats have been out to impeach Trump since the start of his presidency, nothing short of an effort to undo the 2016 election and to try to shape the next one.
"Leave it to the voters to choose," said White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
Schiff's comment drew critics on social media who said the remark was a naked scare tactic.
Jennifer Barbosa, an independent running against Schiff, said on Twitter that the California Democrat's comment is an "insult to our intelligence."
Schiff, who is one of Trump's most vocal critics, has been criticized by some for his flair for the dramatic. During the House impeachment inquiry, he read out a hyperbolic account of Trump's controversial call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.
"I have a favor I want from you," Schiff said at the time, while appearing to read from a piece of paper. "And I’m going to say this only seven times, so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand? Lots of it, on this and on that."
Trump, who is under fire for allegedly pressuring Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, called on Schiff to resign after the episode. Schiff, who represents parts of Hollywood, said his fictional summary was "in parody."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.