News

Adam Schiff: From obscurity to center stage

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif, chair of the House Intelligence Committee. (Image: Screen capture, ABC This Week)

Throughout most of his political career, Adam Schiff has been low-key, laboring mostly in the background in the California Senate and then in Congress.  Now, at age 59, he finds himself in the national spotlight as a major Donald Trump target amid the hot glare of impeachment furor.

Schiff was elected to the California Senate in 1996, representing a district that included parts of Hollywood, Los Angeles and Pasadena. He won his Senate race after running for the Assembly twice and losing twice.

Although he was not a member of the leadership in the state Senate, Schiff chaired the Judiciary Committee during his single four-year term.

But on Nov. 7, 2000, Schiff won his congressional race against Republican James Rogan, a respected House member who was selected to be one of the 13 house managers in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. The backlash over the impeachment doomed Rogan, although it is also true his district had been trending Democratic. The Schiff-Rogan contest was the most expensive House race in history at the time, topping $10 million. (Rogan is now an Orange County Superior Court judge.)

Although he was not a member of the leadership in the state Senate, Schiff chaired the Judiciary Committee during his single four-year term. He did push through a number of bills, including creation of the Pasadena Blue Line Authority, which continued work on the stalled then-Blue Line light rail extension to Pasadena, which would later be named the Gold Line instead. He also pushed legislation to reform child support, modernize textbooks, and establish a patient’s bill of rights.

Overall, however, Sen. Schiff was “indistinguishable from a hoard of other L.A. lawmakers,” veteran Los Angeles Time political columnist George Skelton told Capitol Weekly.

After Harvard and before beginning his political career, Schiff worked for six-and-a-half years as a prosecutor in the Los Angeles branch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Adam Bennet Schiff has been a Californian since his teenage years. He was born in Framingham, Massachusetts, the son of Edward and Sherrill Ann (Glovsky) Schiff. He was raised in a Jewish family, and moved to the Bay Area suburb of Danville  during high school. He received a political science degree from Stanford and a J.D. degree from Harvard Law School. Schiff and his wife Eve have two children, a boy and a girl. (Yes, his wife’s first name is Eve.).

Schiff, a vegan, has participated in multiple triathlons and marathons, including races in Philadelphia, New York City and Malibu. The New Yorker reported in 2018 that “Schiff has been writing screenplays on the side for years”, including a murder mystery, a post-Holocaust story and a spy drama.

After Harvard and before beginning his political career, Schiff worked for six-and-a-half years as a prosecutor in the Los Angeles branch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. While an assistant U.S. attorney, he prosecuted Richard Miller, the first FBI agent ever to be indicted for espionage. Miller was convicted in a third trial.

Now in his 10th term in Congress, Schiff has become one of Donald Trump’s favorite tweet targets. Trump has called Schiff  ” ‘Liddle’ Adam Schiff,” “Little pencil neck Adam Schiff” and “Shifty Schiff.”

“He’s got the smallest, thinnest neck I’ve ever seen,” Trump tweeted.

As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he has now become one of the most frequent political faces on television.

Schiff has made dozens of appearances on cable news and talk shows, and he has become the face of the impeachment inquiry — a fact not lost on Trump.

The morning following a July 23, 2017  Schiff appearance on “Meet the Press,” Trump referred to Schiff as “Sleazy Adam Schiff, the totally biased Congressman looking into ‘Russia'” and called the Russian collusion investigation ‘the Dem loss excuse.’”

Schiff responded on Twitter that the president’s “comments and actions are beneath the dignity of the office.”

On a more elevated note, Trump has declared, in reference to Schiff’s opening comments in a Sept. 26 house hearing for acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguir: “I think Adam Schiff should be investigated for what he did. He took to the great chamber, Congress, and he made a speech, and his speech was a fraud. Everything he said was a fraud. He went out as though I wrote it. He defrauded the American people. He defrauded Congress. He defrauded himself and his family … He got up and made a speech that bore no relationship to what the conversation was. I’ll tell you a lot of people heard that speech and a lot of people thought that’s what I said because they heard his speech.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi settled on the usually calm and articulate Schiff as the public face of the impeachment inquiry. As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he has now become one of the most frequent political faces on television, pressing for full disclosure from the White House on the now-famous July 25 Ukraine-Trump telephone call.

As for Schiff’s political future, many speculate about a Senate run, or taking the speaker role after Pelosi’s retirement. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s term expires in 2025. She is 86.

Schiff doesn’t like to speculate about his political future, telling reporters “I can’t think past the next few months. I have so much work ahead of me.”

Editor’s Note: Corrects 3rd graf to fix affiliation of Superior Court Judge James Rogan to Orange County, sted Los Angeles.


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: