President Trump and House Republicans are trying to cast the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Adam Schiff of California, as the lead villain in a partisan impeachment reality show. The president has road-tested some nicknames, called for Mr. Schiff’s resignation and accused him of treason, and is now trying to spin out a new conspiracy theory, suggesting that Mr. Schiff “probably helped write” the whistle-blower complaint. House Republicans have indicated that they intend to force a vote to condemn Mr. Schiff when they return from recess.
But in all the ways that matter for this particular moment, Mr. Schiff seems to be coming off as the opposite of a slick political operator bent on betraying the country.
For starters, he was thrust into this role largely by happenstance. Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, has been pursuing an impeachment investigation for some time. But his efforts have largely fallen flat with both the public and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi.
News of a whistle-blower complaint about Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine changed all of that. The drama that ensued put Mr. Schiff in the driver’s seat — not because the call specifically addressed intelligence matters, but because the whistle-blower just happened to work in the intelligence community. A whistle-blower from the State Department with access to similar witnesses and facts could just as easily have submitted the complaint to a different committee.