Reviewed By Carol Moeller —
This book showcases Adam Schiff’s outstanding communication abilities. We have all witnessed his oratorical skills in the media, so I expected this to be a good read, and was not disappointed. Even in a serious book such as this, Schiff’s humor is evident; for example, when describing a dinner he and his wife Eve had with Dick Gebhardt and his wife Jane, “Adam and Eve were dining with Dick and Jane!” Schiff’s healthy lifestyle he freely attributes to Eve. A vegan, he was the only U.S. representative to participate in the inaugural D.C. triathlon in 2010, and has since participated in other triathlons.
Lightly covering his personal background and political beginnings, Schiff’s primary focus is the 2016 election interference by Russia (Schiff was then the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, though he currently serves as the Chair), the first Trump impeachment (for which Schiff was the lead impeachment manager), as well as the Jan 6 insurrection and the following second impeachment. Step-by-step and piece-by-piece, Schiff carefully lays out the many crimes for which Trump was found guilty (and even more for which Republicans gave him a pass) and claims the erosion of checks on executive power is one of the most destructive legacies of the Trump years. As if the day-to-day drama of the impeachment hearings themselves were not enough, behind the scenes tidbits also included the then recent cancer diagnosis of fellow impeachment manager Jerry Nadler’s wife, and Schiff’s painful infection for which he had dental surgery the day after the hearing, where he said, “nobody was ever so glad to receive a root canal.”
When discussing the first impeachment and Trump’s quid pro quo (Biden “dirt” in return for aid already authorized) demand of Ukraine to help Trump’s reelection bid, Schiff emphasizes how important it is to the stability of Europe that Ukraine remain independent. The testimony of US Ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, is an example: “if Ukraine succeeds in breaking free of Russian influence, it is possible for Europe to be whole, free, democratic, and at peace. In contrast, if Russia dominates Ukraine, Russia will again become an empire, oppressing its people, and threatening its neighbors and the rest of the world.” It is ironic and truly frightening that here we are a few years later and Russia is now threatening to invade Ukraine.
One of the most endearing aspects of the book is Schiff’s obvious respect for fellow members of Congress who take their oaths of office seriously. He sees Nancy Pelosi as a true hero, helping so many to do their jobs well. “I cannot imagine how we would have persevered and remained a democracy without the extraordinary leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.” Schiff also exhibited much admiration for Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and Fiona Hill, former official at the U.S. National Security Council specializing in Russian and European affairs, all of whom were removed from their offices by Trump for telling the truth.
In reviewing the Trump administration, Schiff states, “Trump learned to inflame his base by casting his own critics as the enemy, no matter what party they occupied….a political tactic (that was) the hallmark of autocrats everywhere….what I found most disturbing was not the attempt by Kremlin agents to influence our election, or even the evidence of collusion by the Trump campaign. It was the realization that the greater danger to our democracy now came not from Russia or any other external adversary, but from within. One by one, Trump had been tearing down our institutions. The Judicial branch was only legitimate when courts ruled in his favor, otherwise judges were corrupt…..The legislative branch was to be treated with contempt, its subpoenas ignored, and witnesses instructed to refuse to answer questions…Trump was using the instruments of state power to silence the press. The Justice Department operated like the president’s personal law firm…. Intelligence community leaders needed to adhere to the president’s preferred narrative of events…..with remarkable speed, Donald Trump had undermined the foundation of our democracy and projected his warped vision of America onto the world.”