With President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris being sworn in on Jan. 20, U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) is looking forward to the new administration.
“I’m excited about the inauguration,” Schiff said in an interview on Jan. 19. “[It’s] a chance to turn a corner to begin a new, very different administration, a positive one that will work on bringing us together rather than driving us apart.”
In a statement released after the inauguration, Schiff said the event “marked a new beginning.”
“For a nation that never got to celebrate the new year, this was New Year’s Day,” Schiff said. “Listening to President Biden’s inaugural address, I couldn’t help but feel optimistic about the future, about our nation’s endless ability to remake itself, to renew itself, to press on with hope for the future no matter how difficult the past.
“And I was struck by how wise a choice the country had made in picking Joe Biden, his fundamental goodness and decency, his sincere calls for unity, his experience with loss and recovery, his devotion to truth and dignity.
“The lesson of the past four years has been a profound one – our democracy is not self-effectuating. It is up to us, to every generation, to protect and defend it, to cherish and preserve it. As our new president said today: ‘We’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.’”
While the future looks bright, Schiff said he and other federal government officials are not done with their response to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, a “shocking” event led by supporters of former President Donald Trump that was “not just a Trumpist insurrection, but it was also a white nationalist insurrection,” he said in the interview.
Washington, D.C., looked “like an armed fortress” for the inauguration, which Schiff compared to what he saw when visiting troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I think the sizable law enforcement and guard present has deterred a lot of these white nationalist and militia groups from wreaking further havoc, but we’re not out of the woods yet by any means, not this month and not for the next several years,” Schiff said. “We’ll have to deal with the significant number of Americans that [former] President Trump has misled into thinking that the election was stolen from them, that the [former] president was the victim of some deep state coup attempt, and that permanent sense of aggrievement will be fuel for right wing groups and QAnon conspiracy theorists and others that use that aggrievement to cause violence.”
At least one of the rioters has been accused of stealing computer equipment from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and allegedly attempted to give or sell it to the Russian government. A suspect in the theft, Riley Williams, was arrested on Jan. 18.
“The idea that people involved in that mob would also want to betray the country a second time by delivering sensitive information to our adversaries overseas, if those allegations are true, it just demonstrates that [their] depravity knows no bounds. It’s not enough to attack our democracy, but we have people willing to help undermine us abroad as well,” Schiff said.
The attack on the Capitol led to Trump’s second impeachment, and though he has left office, he will face a trial in the Senate that could prevent him from holding federal office again.
“The evidence is overwhelming that [Trump] committed further impeachable offenses by inciting an insurrection against the peaceful transfer of power … As we warned during the last impeachment trial, if left in office, he would again try to cheat in the next election. We said the odds were 100%, and that’s exactly what happened. If he’s not disqualified from running again, I think we can be confident that he’ll cheat in the next election, that he’ll peddle other big lies and we’re at risk for another insurrection. No senator should want to put the country through this again,” Schiff said.
Schiff said the odds of Trump’s conviction – the first attempt failed, with the vote going largely along party lines – will depend on Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kent.), the minority leader in the Senate. Since Jan. 6, McConnell has made public statements that indicate he could support convicting Trump in the Senate.
“[McConnell] sounds like someone aware of the president’s guilt and complicity, and he may bring a critical mass of Republican Senators with him, but it still remains to be seen,” Schiff said.
Though there is more Republican support for punishing Trump this time around, Schiff cast doubt on their motives, noting that they waited until “the last few days of Donald Trump’s administration, when he has been utterly discredited … to remake themselves,” calling it “too little, too late.”
“[Some of these Republicans] have done damage to our country, destroying the independence of our justice department, and were campaigning for four more years of Donald Trump. Only now, when he’s a discredited lame duck, are they finding their voice. It’s not so much as saving the country as it is saving their faces,” Schiff said.
Aside from the political challenges that remain, Schiff said the new Democrat-controlled federal government needs to make COVID-19 its top priority.
“I think all of our focus has to be on ending the pandemic, on speeding up the dissemination of vaccine, ramping up testing, getting help to families economically to get through the rest of the pandemic and reopening our schools and our business, that whole range of issues has to be our first, second and third priority and I think that’s where our attention needs to be devoted right now,” Schiff said.
This article was updated at 12:40 p.m. on Jan. 21 to correct an editing error.
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