President Donald Trump called for the resignation of House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff on Friday, claiming the Democratic congressman "lied to Congress" with his mocking interpretation of the president's call with the Ukrainian leader.
In one of several tweets attacking Schiff, who is leading the investigation into the whistleblower complaint that motivated House Democrats to launch a formal impeachment inquiry against the president, Trump alleged Schiff "totally made up my conversation" with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
"He was supposedly reading the exact transcribed version of the call, but he completely changed the words to make it sound horrible, and me sound guilty," Trump wrote in another tweet.
Republican Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., in the House introduced a resolution censuring Schiff for his remarks.
Schiff "read a statement that was blatantly false, had no corresponding evidence, nor relationship to the actual transcript of President Trump's conversation," Biggs said in a video posted to Twitter. "What the chairman did is he read something that was made-up, totally false, and later had to excuse it by saying it was a parody."
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Video of the event Trump is describing on Twitter shows that Schiff, D-Calif., doesn't purport to be reading an "exact transcribed version" of the July call — a summary of which was released by the White House on Wednesday.
Rather, the House Intelligence Committee chairman opened a hearing Thursday with the acting director of national intelligence with what he emphasized was a parody of what the president said and requested during the call.
Schiff's Trump impression
“It reads like a classic organized crime shakedown," Schiff said in his opening remarks about Trump's call with Ukraine's president.
"Shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words, this is the essence of what the president communicates," he added. Then he launched into the parody:
"We’ve been very good to your country, very good," Schiff says, as Trump. "No other country has done as much as we have, but you know what? I don’t see much reciprocity here. I hear what you want, I have a favor I want from you, though, and I’m gonna 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."
Schiff then underscores he is illustrating a point.
"This is in some character what the president was trying to communicate with the president of Ukraine. It would be funny if it wasn't such a graphic betrayal of the president's oath of office."
Despite Trump's claim that what Schiff said is "totally made up" — and Biggs' claim that Schiff's statement had no "relationship to the actual transcript of President Trump's conversation" — some of Schiff's phrasing matches the White House's own summary of what Trump said.
Schiff responded to Trump's attacks on Twitter, saying that Trump was "right about one thing — your words need no mockery. Your own words and deeds mock themselves."
He told NBC News he was "amused by the umbrage he took, when his Twitter attacks on me were misspelled," pointing to another tweet from Trump attacking Schiff that misspelled the word "describing."
What the White House summary of the call shows Trump said
The White House's five-page description of the call shows that Trump asked Zelenskiy to "look into" the family of possible 2020 rival Joe Biden. Trump also said the words, "I would like you to do us a favor, though" — which appears to involve discovering whether Ukraine might possess a server that contained some of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails. Though it was not explicit, Trump also appears to tie the award of aid to Ukraine to Zelenskiy's willingness to cooperate with Trump.
"I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time. Much more than the European countries are doing," Trump said, according to the White House description of the call. He added, "The United States has been very very good to Ukraine. I wouldn't say that it's reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine."
Parody vs. fiction
After a Republican on the committee called Schiff's opening remarks "fiction" during the hearing Thursday, Schiff clarified further.
“My summary of the president's call was meant to be at least part in parody. The fact that's not clear is a separate problem in and of itself," Schiff said. "Of course, the president never said, 'If you don't understand me, I'm going to say it seven more times.' My point is that's the message."
The White House — and Trump himself — frequently says Trump is kidding or being sarcastic to defend certain remarks, like when he said he might need a third term at a rally this month. ("I'm only kidding," he said.)
He's also used imitation to criticize reporters. During his 2016 campaign, he famously imitated a reporter with a disability, jerking his arms and seemingly portraying the man's joint condition, while saying, as the reporter, ‘Ah, I don’t know what I said! I don’t remember!’"
The reporter actually said that Trump's claims — that thousands of people in New Jersey had celebrated the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — "were not the case, as best I can remember."