(CNN)President Donald Trump thrives on creating political foils, especially in a crisis.
That means for Schiff, there is no room for error. Every move he makes, every word he utters, is scrutinized by Republicans and combed for mistakes — however minor.
Last month, Schiff told MSNBC that the House Intelligence Committee, of which he is chairman, had no interaction with the whistleblower.
“We have not spoken directly with the whistleblower,” Schiff said.
It turns out, according to reporting by CNN and The New York Times, that Schiff may not have spoken to the whistleblower, but his staff did.
“I regret that I wasn’t much more clear,” Schiff told the Daily Beast.
The whistleblower contacted his committee for guidance, and was told to file the complaint with the Intelligence Community Inspector General, which is what happened.
This followed protocol — a point made even by an aide to the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee.
But that nuance is irrelevant to a President eager to discredit him.
“He knew long before and helped write it, too. It’s a scam,” Trump declared from the White House East Room.
Both Schiff aides and the whistleblower’s attorney say that is not true, that the committee had no role in writing the whistleblower complaint.
That did not stop Trump’s campaign and conservative media from feverishly pushing the false claim.
The President is also pummeling Schiff for reading a parody of his call with Ukraine’s leader at a hearing with the acting Director of National Intelligence, instead of the actual White House summary.
Schiff introduced his riff explaining what he was going to do, which was get to the “essence of what the president communicates.”
“You better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand? Lots of it. On this and on that. I’m going to put you in touch with people, not just any people,” he went on to say.
Schiff later told CNN that he was trying to mock the President’s conduct.
Without citing evidence, Trump called it “criminal” and “treasonous.”
Presidential hyperbole aside, CNN is told by House Democratic sources that Schiff realizes it opened him up to criticism.
Schiff is keenly aware of the pitfalls of leading impeachment, since he was first elected to the House almost 20 years ago by beating Republican James Rogan — an impeachment manager who argued the case against Bill Clinton in the Senate trial.
Voter backlash against Rogan for going overboard helped Schiff win his California district.
A congresswoman from northern California named Nancy Pelosi helped recruit Schiff back then, and has been one of his biggest champions ever since.
Several House Democratic sources say Pelosi was eager to put Schiff in charge of the impeachment inquiry because of what she and other colleagues call his intellect, savvy and background as a prosecutor which, opening statement aside, came across during his rapid-fire focused questioning of Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire last week.
It was an open secret that Pelosi was not happy with the way House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, was leading Trump investigations before the impeachment inquiry became official. Elevating Schiff was made easier by virtue of the fact that the issue at hand — the President asking Ukraine’s leader to investigate Joe Biden — fit under Schiff’s portfolio.
“Every step of his career has prepared him for this moment,” said a House Democratic leadership aide.
“Everyone wants it to be him,” one Democratic lawmaker told CNN about Schiff leading the charge. That lawmaker also warned that he “has to be careful” which Schiff now understands more than ever.
Multiple House Democrats noted in conversations with CNN that Schiff is under the biggest microscope of his life, and he knows it.
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