How Rep. Adam Schiff celebrated the fourth indictment of former President Trump

A man in a blue long-sleeved button down shirt gets into a black car
Congressman Adam Schiff gets into a car with enviromental activists to tour encroaching warehouses in the Bloomington area of the Inland Empire on August 15, 2023. Schiff is running for the Senate.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
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Riverside County Democratic Party Chair Joy Silver worked the crowd with the guile of a Vegas nightclub opening act, stalling until Rep. Adam Schiff arrived.

A room of about 150 or so eager liberals had turned out to see the Senate candidate and archenemy of former President Trump. Instead, they were hearing Silver butter up every Democratic club in the county.

It wasn’t that the Burbank representative was stuck in traffic or hobnobbing with VIPs Tuesday evening.

“He’s out in the parking lot doing CNN,” Silver told the crowd, which cheered upon hearing that news. “If you get CNN on your phone, he’s on the air right now. He’ll walk right in, so we just got to wait a few more minutes.”


The network had sent a satellite van, which he popped into for seven minutes to join anchor Kaitlan Collins as she updated the nation about Trump’s fourth indictment, which pertains to his alleged efforts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election results.

Since Trump entered the White House in 2017, Schiff has been one of his top antagonists. That stature elevated Schiff’s 2021 book — “Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could” — to the bestseller lists.

As a top candidate for Senate, Schiff is using that ubiquity to fuel his campaign strategy to be everywhere, all the time, doing local and national media along with campaign events big and small. Hence the waiting satellite van in Riverside.

“I’ve felt, ever since I got to Congress, that if my constituents don’t know what I’m doing, it’s not on them. It’s on me,” Schiff said. “With respect to some of the national challenges, like the challenge to our democracy, there’s so many people out there putting out bad information. I think it’s very important to be a great explainer and put in context what’s happening in the country.”

It’s not as if Schiff’s top Democratic rivals in the race to replace retiring Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) are pro-Trump lackeys. Both Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) and Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) have found prominent ways to stand up to Trump. Lee is lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against Trump over his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. And throughout Trump’s tenure, Porter used her whiteboard and tough questioning style to expose what she saw as flaws in his administration’s policies.

A man with a camera and lights pointed at him speaks
Rep. Adam Schiff does a television interview with Spectrum News on June 2 in Washington, D.C.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

But when Trump’s legal troubles are in the news, it’s Schiff whom the national cable networks invite on their shows.

The repeated exposure — with Trump’s cases unfolding in multiple legal jurisdictions over the coming months — could give Schiff an advantage in what’s begun as a tight race by putting him in the living rooms of millions of California voters at no expense to his campaign.

Since mid-July, he’s been on either MSNBC or CNN at least 11 times — far more than his competitors.

Political consultants unaffiliated with his campaign say Schiff has used the prominence gained from his role in an impeachment, multiple inquiries into Trump’s relationship to Russia and the House Select Committee inquiry into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack to great effect.

During the first Trump impeachment proceeding, Schiff was one of several representatives to make the case that the president should be removed from office. Similarly, he was the ranking member and later chair of the permanent select committee on intelligence, and later led one of the Jan. 6 committee’s public hearings, which included an inquiry into what occurred in Georgia.


The message he’s preached at those congressional hearings targeting Trump’s alleged misdeeds — the need to protect American democracy — has become a pivotal issue to California voters. A May poll from The Times and UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found that,after the economy (23%), “threats to democracy” (19%) ranked as the most important issue likely voters in California were assessing when deciding whom to support for U.S. Senate.

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“It’s the gold standard of Democratic worthiness to take on Donald Trump in a battle and fight the enemy for good reasons,” said strategist Doug Herman, who most recently served as Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’ election advisor. “It’s really a solid credential out in the greater political world, but it’s an even more powerful credential in a crowded Democratic primary.”

That same Berkeley poll revealed a tight race for Senate.

GOP businessman Eric Early led with 18% of the state’s likely voters, nearly all Republicans. Porter is close behind with 17%, followed by Schiff with 14%. But among people who rated threats to democracy as the most important issue, Schiff led the field 29% and Porter came in second with 25%.

David Axelrod, an advisor to former President Obama, referenced Schiff’s speech at the end of the first impeachment trial as one of the great pieces of oratory, one that will be remembered as prophetic because the congressman said: “What are the odds if left in office that [Trump] will continue trying to cheat? I will tell you:100%.”

Axelrod noted that Schiff’s recent censure by House Republicans proved to be a boon for his fundraising, helping him rake in roughly double the combined total raised by Lee and Porter. (Axelrod isn’t working for Schiff but was previously partners in a campaign consulting firm with Larry Grisolano, who is now advising the congressman. Herman, who isn’t consulting for a Senate campaign, regularly works with Grisolano on races including the Bass campaign last year).

Axelrod and others cautioned, however, that Schiff had to go beyond just being a check on Trump — and be careful not to become a single-issue candidate. As potent a foil as Trump remains, voters will want to hear Schiff speak to their concerns about the unequal economy, the broken immigration system and the need to protect the environment.


“Being the No. 1 congressional foil of Trump among Democrats — that’s a badge of honor,” Axelrod said. “There’s no doubt that has a tremendous upside. But if you’re only the guy who’s seen on MSNBC or CNN talking about Donald Trump, there is a danger to that as well. That’s why you see him out there doing all these other things. Just to remind people, ‘Hey, I paint on a broad palette here and I’m working on stuff that is really important to you — not just Donald Trump.’”

 Congressman Adam Schiff, in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, walks by a field with other people next to him
Adam Schiff passes an elementary school that is going to be torn down and replaced with another giant warehouse in the Inland Empire while touring parts of the area with environmental activists.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Since the House recessed late last month, Schiff has been crisscrossing the state trying to do just that.

After spending Monday at the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego, Schiff began Tuesday in Calexico with his wife, Eve, talking with local advocates about affordable housing and wealth inequality.

In an interview, he recalled meeting a U.S. citizen living in Mexico who woke everyday at 1 a.m. and crossed the border most days to work in the fields and make enough to care for his family. He also talked about a recent trip to the Central Valley where he met Madera residents concerned about the local hospital closing and a lack of clean drinking water.

When Schiff arrived in Riverside later that day in triple-digit heat, he toured several towns where dozens of warehouses have sprouted up to help feed the nation’s insatiable demand for e-commerce. The fumes from idling big rigs sicken residents, they told him. Then environmental activists from the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice showed him the Stringfellow Acid Pit toxic waste site.


In a meeting afterward, Schiff began with a simple question: How can I help?

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There’s a theme emerging in all these communities he’s visited on the campaign.

“You see people struggling to find decent paying jobs, and you’ve got all these warehouses moving in affecting the quality of life and the quality of their health,” he said. “They’re not producing long-term, good jobs for people. They’re producing transient jobs and a lot of illnesses.”

According to Schiff, a former federal prosecutor who served in the state Senate before winning his congressional seat in 2000, there’s a direct connection between the economic situation in this country and the conditions that make it ripe for Trump to return to power. Though it’s gotten less attention, Schiff has long advocated to bring more resources to his district to address issues such as homelessness.

“I’ve talked to President Biden about it, and he very much feels exactly the same way — that his economic agenda is part of the democracy agenda,” Schiff said.

His speech before the Riverside County Democrats was no different: an attempt to braid these themes into something compelling for voters who’ve spent the last several years offended by Trump.

Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif) gets into a car with community activists
Rep. Adam Schiff gets into a car with environmental activists to tour encroaching warehouses in the Bloomington area of the Inland Empire.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

But unlike most Senate race stump speeches, this one included an extended analysis that resembled his CNN appearance, where he discussed specifics of the Fulton County indictment in Georgia. He explained he was proud that his work on the Jan. 6 committee had laid the groundwork for Trump’s indictment, but also mentioned his recent travels across the state and the economic unfairness he observed everywhere.


After Schiff wrapped up, Diana Rodriguez, 68, and her daughter Kim Belangeri stood eagerly awaiting a photo with the candidate. Rodriguez said she had voted Republican until Trump’s ascendance, when she changed her party registration. Both follow the news obsessively, tracking every machination in the former president’s legal drama. Nothing could be worse than his possible return to the White House, they said.

“If there’s no democracy, the economy doesn’t even matter,” Rodriguez said. “We need people like Schiff protecting it. “