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Trump’s latest attack on Adam Schiff is a new low, even for him

The president’s crude insults indicate he’ll fight dirty in response to Democratic oversight efforts.

President Donald Trump stands a podium at a rally.
The president’s playground-level insults tie in with the his broader strategy to discredit any ongoing investigations.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Hours after House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) went viral when he responded to a Republican effort to get him to resign his chairmanship over Russiagate by ticking through the major pieces of evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during a hearing, President Donald Trump responded with insults worthy of a playground bully during his rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“Little pencil-neck Adam Schiff,” Trump said, prompting boos from the crowd. “He has the smallest, thinnest neck I have ever seen. He is not a long-ball hitter. But I saw him today — ‘well, we don’t really know, there could still have been some Russia collusion.’ Sick. Sick. These are sick people.”

Trump’s crass attack on Schiff — who, during his frequent TV appearances, has been highlighting the evidence of Trump-Russia collusion for more than a year — came days after his eldest son and namesake used the same insult to demean the House Intelligence chair.

Last November, Trump went as far as to refer to Schiff as “little Adam Schitt” on Twitter.

At a minimum, Trump’s juvenile attacks on Schiff show the hollowness of the anti-bullying aspect of First Lady Melania Trump’s “Be Best” campaign. It’s absurd to pretend to care about bullying on the internet when two members of your family are among the world’s foremost bullies.

But beyond that, they tie in with the president’s broader strategy to discredit any ongoing investigations into him, his associates, and his business dealings by attacking one of the main chairs of a committee tasked with conducting them.

Trump — who accused Democrats of “defrauding the public with ridiculous bullshit” during another part of Thursday’s speech — is willing to hit below the belt if necessary.

“These people are sick”

Trump escalated his attacks on Schiff this week following Attorney General Bill Barr’s announcement last Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller is ending his investigation without bringing charges against Trump or any additional members of his campaign and family.

Early Thursday morning, Trump demanded that Schiff resign from Congress.

Of course, it isn’t the case that Mueller’s decision to not bring conspiracy-related charges against Trump means that there is no damaging evidence against Trump or those tied to him. But the drawdown of the Mueller investigation has presented the president and his supporters with an opportunity to claim Schiff and other Democrats overplayed their hands with regard to Russiagate in particular and investigations of the president more broadly.

During another part of his speech on Thursday, Trump dismissed House Democrats who are trying to conduct oversight of his administration as “sick.”

“These people are sick,” Trump said, specifically singling out House Oversight Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nalder (D-NY), who recently requested documents from 81 people or entities associated with the president as part of his committee’s investigation into Trump’s potential obstruction of justice, corruption, and abuse of power.

Instead of cooperating with congressional investigations in an effort to prove he has nothing to hide, Trump’s strategy seems to be to try and portray Democrats as being out to get him — even if that means resorting to insults of unprecedented crudeness for a president to make about members of Congress in a public setting.

That strategy may work with his base, but recent polling indicates it has limited appeal more broadly. A Restore Public Trust poll conducted in February found that 60 percent of respondents said they support “Democrats in Congress conducting investigations into senior officials in the Trump administration.”


The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.

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