On November 10, the Brennan Center for Justice conducted an interview with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and lead manager in first impeachment trial of Donald Trump to discuss the Constitution, Congress, and the disastrous culmination of Trump’s presidency on January 6.
Schiff began the conversation by explaining the title of his new book Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could, equating the darkness that shrouds midnight to the moral darkness that has seemingly shrouded Congress:
“After Joe Biden was elected, I thought we were on the other side of midnight … But as it turns out midnight is still with us. Instead of rejecting Donald Trump and rejecting the Big Lie that led to the insurrection, Republicans in leadership positions in Congress and elsewhere have embraced the Big Lie that us here. So I can’t say that we’re out of midnight yet.”
The California congressman proceeded to delve into the importance of media in Donald Trump’s rise to power. Schiff discussed how “economic anxiety” coupled with modern news media and social media misinformation created an environment that was apt for the rise of the extremist views and conspiracy theories that dominate the modern right-wing discourse:
“We [have moved] from a time where there was a large body of agreed-upon fact and we might differ on what to do with those fact but we could agree on fact. Now people tune into news they want to hear. Or even more so get their news curated for them through social media that shows us only what we want to see and often leads us through algorithms down the darkest of rabbit holes.”
Senator Schiff’s primary focus, however, was the role of Congress in the “enablement of Donald Trump’s dismantling of our democratic institutions.” Schiff described “the slow surrender of ideology” among many Republican members of Congress as Donald Trump’s extreme rhetoric became more penetrating.
“It happens when you’re asked to tell a small lie and a small lie becomes a slightly larger one. When you’re asked to do something slightly unethical and even more unethical and pretty soon you’re so far in, you feel your position relies on the continuation of that pattern. And that is what has brought us to this point. There’s no flaw in the Constitution that can identify. We shouldn’t amend the Impeachment Clause to make it a majority vote and turn our congress into a parliament. That’s not the problem. The problem is if our representatives don’t give meaning to their oath; if they don’t inform their decision-making by ideas of right and wrong. If they’re not willing to accept the truth than none of it really works.”
Schiff finished the discussion by talking about voting rights. He claimed that the two voting rights bills currently pending in Congress are “existential to our democracy” and discussed the issue of Republican gerrymandering and the role that it plays in preventing a true majority rule in Congress:
“I don’t think a democracy and long thrive or maybe even survive if a over a sustained period of time it is governed by the minority of its citizens… [Republicans] know their ideas are unpopular and increasingly so. Their only way of and attaining power and keeping it is if fewer Americans vote.”
Illustration by James Yang for The Washington Post