Schiff describes whistleblower complaint as 'most graphic evidence yet' against Trump

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGraham: Senate trial 'must expose the whistleblower' Graham says Schiff should be a witness in Trump impeachment trial Democrats seize on new evidence in first public impeachment hearing MORE (D-Calif.) described the whistleblower complaint against President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE as the "most graphic evidence yet" that Trump has abused his oath of office.

Trump “sacrificed our national security and the Constitution for his personal political benefit” during a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Schiff said in his opening statement at a hearing on the complaint, which was made public minutes before he spoke.

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An edited transcript of the call released by the White House Wednesday confirmed that Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 2020 Dems put focus on stemming veteran suicides MORE and his son Hunter Biden.

Trump has said he did nothing improper, while excoriating Democrats for a "witch hunt."

Schiff evoked the founder's vision of the Constitution, calling it the president’s obligation “to defend the institutions of our democracy, to defend our system of checks and balances that the Constitution enshrines, to defend the rule of law.”

The California lawmaker raised details about the whistleblower complaint released earlier Thursday, saying that Zelensky sought to "ingratiate himself" while making clear that he would like resources to help combat Russian aggression.

The chairman described Trump as acting like a mob boss who hears what someone wants and then makes clear their demands before bestowing such asks, an argument he'd also made Wednesday.

“And what is the president’s response — well it reads like a classic organized crime shakedown. In essence, what President Trump communicates is this: We’ve been very good to your country,” Schiff said.

“Very good. No other country has done as much as we have. But you know what, I don’t see much reciprocity here. You know what I mean? I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you though.”

Schiff stressed the importance of whistleblowers within the intelligence community to his committee.

“If that system is allowed to break down, as it did here, if whistleblowers come to understand they will not be protected, one of two things happen — serious wrongdoing goes unreported, or whistleblowers take matters into their own hands and divulge classified information to the press in violation of the law and placing our security at risk,” he said in the opening remarks.

Schiff went on to call the handling of the complaint by acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire “deeply troubling.”

“By law, the whistleblower complaint, which brought this gross misconduct to light, should have been presented to this committee weeks ago, and by you, Mr. Director, under the clear letter of the law,” he said.