“This is a wrathful and vindictive president; I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” Schiff said in the interview. “And if you think there is, look at the President’s tweets about me today, saying that I should ‘pay a price.’ “
“Do you take that as a threat?” host Chuck Todd asked.
“I think it’s intended to be,” Schiff replied.
Trump’s targeting of Schiff comes as the President’s attorneys are readying to mount an aggressive defence on Monday.
Democrats are arguing that Trump withheld military aid and an Oval Office meeting to pressure Ukraine’s leaders into announcing investigations of his political rivals, including former vice-president Joe Biden, who is a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.
The House impeached Trump in December on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to these allegations and his directive that his administration not co-operate with the House’s investigation.
In a two-hour presentation on Saturday, members of Trump’s legal team argued that the president had valid reasons for withholding the aid to Ukraine, and it sought to plant doubts about both the prosecutors’ case and Schiff.
But in arguing their case, Trump’s attorneys omitted facts, presented claims that lacked context or minimised evidence gathered by House investigators.
Both sides continue to spar over the question of whether the Senate trial will include witnesses. Some key Senate Republicans, already hesitant on the issue, became even more so over the weekend after Schiff referred to a CBS News report in which an anonymous Trump ally was quoted as having warned lawmakers, ‘Vote against the President and your head will be on a pike.’ “
Several of those GOP senators – including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine – have criticised Schiff for referencing the report, maintaining that the White House has not threatened them to vote against calling witnesses.
Schiff on Sunday defended his remarks, arguing that they weren’t personal and were intended simply to highlight the challenge for Republican senators in demonstrating “moral courage to stand up to this President”.
“I want to acknowledge that, and I don’t want to acknowledge it in a way that is offensive to them, but I do want to speak candidly about it,” he said. “And if this weren’t an issue, there wouldn’t be an issue about calling witnesses. If we can’t even get the senators to agree to call witnesses in a trial, it shows you just how difficult that moral courage is.”
He also argued Trump’s legal team has the right to call witnesses in the president’s impeachment trial but not “irrelevant” ones such as Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
“It’s not a question of what I’m afraid of. I’m not afraid of anything. It’s a question of: Should the trial be used as a vehicle to smear his opponent … or is it to get to the truth?” he said.
Schiff also appeared to play down the significance of a potential Senate vote to acquit Trump, arguing that such a vote would be meaningless if no witnesses are allowed to be called.
“They don’t really contest the President’s scheme. … They just tried to make the case that you don’t need a fair trial here; you can make this go away,” Schiff said of the President’s legal team. “But look, if they’re successful of depriving the country of a fair trial, there is no exoneration.”
Meanwhile, half of registered voters and a majority of independents think the Senate should convict President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial and remove him from office, according to a Fox News poll released Sunday.
Fifty per cent told Fox News that Trump should be convicted and removed and 44 per cent said he should not. Registered voters’ impeachment opinions largely fell along party lines, with 81 per cent of Democrats favoring the President’s removal and 84 per cent of Republicans opposing it. Independents said Trump should be removed by a nearly 20-point margin, with 53 per cent in favour of conviction and 34 per cent opposed.
The poll was conducted from January 19-22, which was after the Senate trial technically was under way but before the House impeachment managers and the President’s legal team were able to make their cases.
The Washington Post, Bloomberg, USA Today