With Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial officially on the way, it didn’t take long for Trump’s lawyers to try to mislead Senators and the American people with carefully manufactured lies.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone kicked things off with a series of outright lies. The first whopper was Cipollone’s claim that “not even [House Intelligence Committee chair and impeachment manager Adam] Schiff’s Republican colleagues were allowed into the SCIF,” the secure facility where members of Congress reviewed classified information relevant to the impeachment inquiry.
This statement, of course, was not true at all. While some House Republicans tried to pull a publicity stunt at the time over colleagues who weren’t on the committees involved not being allowed in the room, those who were on the three relevant committees were granted the exact same level of access as Democrats.
Cipollone was just starting: Channeling the boss, Cipollone referenced the fact that during one of the House Intelligence Committee‘s hearings, Schiff paraphrased Trump‘s July 25 phone call with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky.
As the transcript had already been released, everyone knew that Schiff wasn’t claiming to be quoting it verbatim, but the president and Republicans pretended otherwise, and insisted the congressman was a traitor who should resign. Cipollone, an actual lawyer who you’d think would bring better arguments to the table, simply repeated the Trump talking point, telling the room on Tuesday, “When Mr. Schiff saw that his allegations [about Trump abusing his power] were false, and he knew it anyway, what did he do? He went to the House and he manufactured a fraudulent version of that phone call. He read it to the American people, and he didn’t tell them it was a complete fake.”
Picking up where his colleague left off, Trump attorney Jay Sekulow also told a smattering of tall tales, falsely claiming that House Democrats delayed the articles of impeachment for “33 days”—he was off by about a week—and insisting that the president “was denied the right to cross-examine witnesses” during the House inquiry. That’s grossly misleading considering that (1) per the Constitution, the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses does not occur until the Senate trial, and (2) the administration outright refused to participate in the House’s proceedings.
Given his role as an impeachment manager, Schiff was afforded the opportunity to respond to these “falsehoods” in near-real time and he very gladly took it.
“Now, I’m not going to suggest to you that Mr. Cipollone would deliberately make a false statement,” Schiff said on the Senate floor. “I will leave it to Mr. Cipollone to make those allegations against others. But I will tell you this. He’s mistaken. He’s mistaken. Every Republican on the three investigative committees was allowed to participate in the depositions. And more than that, they got the same time we did!”