Acquitting Trump Encouraged Putin, Says Adam Schiff
Republicans have been quick to blame President Biden for Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, arguing that Biden encouraged it by showing "weakness." Democrats are starting to push back on that, pointing to signals the Republicans have been sending the Russian disctator.
House Democratic Conference Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) started in his Capitol Hill news conference Tuesday, when he was asked about ongoing Republican claims that Biden is to blame for high gas prices, even as analysts cite the shock of the Ukraine invasion for recent spikes.
"The notion that they [Republicans] want to now come here and lecture us when Vladimir Putin is the one responsible if gas prices increase significantly here in America -- Vladimir Putin," Jeffries said, pausing. "They shouldn't provide any aid and comfort to him, a brutal dictator," Jeffries said,
"We know they have practice doing so, because Donald Trump did it for four years," Jeffries said, "That may explain some of the brazenness that we're seeing right now in Eastern Europe."
Later Tuesday, after the nation's intelligence leaders briefed Congress, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff was asked about those charges by Republicans of weakness, and whether instead of seeing Biden as weak, Putin may have taken any lessons from the Senate's acquittal of Trump in 2020.
"What Americans need to understand about that sordid chapter of our history is Ukraine was even then at war with Russia," Schiff said. "It was a long-simmering but bloody conflict in which Ukrainians were even then dying every week, sometimes every day."
And even in that environment, Trump withheld military aid in an attempt to get Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden's son.
"He did so because he wanted to pressure Zelensky, the same now-wartime hero, into trying to smear his opponent," Schiff said. "And I think what that told Putin, tragically, is the United States doesn't care about Ukraine, it doesn't care about its people, it doesn't care about its democratic aspirations, it doesn't care if Ukrainians get killed by Russians."
Schiff added: "I think that's the message that Trump's conduct sent — that we would use Ukraine as a political playpen."
Even now, Schiff said, the lesson Putin took from the acquittal of Trump was that he could expect Trump and Trump supporters to bad mouth Biden and undermine U.S. and Ukraine unity.
"Putin anticipated that were he to invade Ukraine that he could count on President Trump either to praise him or to criticize Biden, and we've seen, tragically, both," Schiff said. "And so I think that chapter which resulted in the president's -- the former president's impeachment -- sadly, was an encouragement to Putin and weakened Ukraine, even in this fight."
House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (La.) was also asked about Republicans' defense of Trump, and whether there was any rethinking on Trump's pressure campaign against Zelensky.
Scalise simply denied anything improper had happened.
"If you look at that conversation, President Zelensky had called President Trump to thank him for the leadership that he provided," Scalise said.
"Ultimately he got the relief money that he was asking for," he said.
Zelensky did eventually get the aid and Javelin missiles, however, that was after whistleblowers and Congress started applying pressure.