David Gergen 09292019
CNN
David Gergen 09292019
Now playing
02:26
Gergen: If someone targets whistleblower, it's on Trump
Joe Manchin
CNN
Joe Manchin
Now playing
02:03
'I never thought in my life ...' Why Manchin won't walk away from bipartisanship
Gaetz speaks to members of the media outside the hearing Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump, testifies at before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform at Rayburn House Office Building February 27, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Last year Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, unlawful excessive campaign contributions and lying to Congress as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Gaetz speaks to members of the media outside the hearing Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump, testifies at before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform at Rayburn House Office Building February 27, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Last year Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, unlawful excessive campaign contributions and lying to Congress as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.
Now playing
06:11
'Bombastic, antagonistic, unapologetic': A look at Gaetz's political career
Former House Speaker John Boehner attends a ceremony to unveil a portrait of himself on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 in Washington.
Michael A. McCoy/AP
Former House Speaker John Boehner attends a ceremony to unveil a portrait of himself on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 in Washington.
Now playing
02:42
Boehner says Republican colleague held 10-inch knife to his throat outside House floor
President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris, and Attorney General Merrick Garland, speaks about gun violence prevention in the Rose Garden at the White House, Thursday, April 8, 2021, in Washington.
Andrew Harnik/AP
President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris, and Attorney General Merrick Garland, speaks about gun violence prevention in the Rose Garden at the White House, Thursday, April 8, 2021, in Washington.
Now playing
02:05
Biden calls for ban on assault weapons
CNN
Now playing
02:22
Biden: High-speed internet is infrastructure
AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
03:24
Donald Trump breaks his silence on Matt Gaetz
CNN/WLOX
Now playing
01:43
'He says the quiet part out loud': Borger reacts to GOP election official's remark
AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
02:30
Haberman: Trump had to be talked out of defending Matt Gaetz
CNN
Now playing
03:26
Georgia's Lt. governor says elections law was a result of Trump's misinformation
Now playing
02:38
GOP lawmakers can't give examples of why states need anti-transgender sports bills
CNN
Now playing
03:04
Avlon reacts to McConnell's advice to corporations
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 06:  U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the state of vaccinations in the U.S. in the State Dining Room of the White House April 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden announced that states should make all adults eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by April 19.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 06: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the state of vaccinations in the U.S. in the State Dining Room of the White House April 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden announced that states should make all adults eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by April 19. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:12
'Smarten up': Biden admonishes states' restrictive voting laws
WAVE
Now playing
01:27
'It's stupid': McConnell's warning for corporate America
reality check thumb
reality check thumb
Now playing
02:48
John Avlon breaks down fraud claims among Trump donors
Now playing
06:22
Key figure in Gaetz extortion claims responds
(CNN) —  

On Monday morning, the President of the United States accused a member of Congress of treason.

“Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people,” tweeted Trump. “It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?”

Wow! What Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, must have said something really, really bad, right????

Well, no.

Here’s what Schiff said at a hearing last week in describing the recently released transcript of a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky:

“In not so many words, this is the essence of what the President communicates.

’We have been very good to your country, very good. No other country has done as much as we have. But you know what? I don’t see much reciprocity here. I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you though. I’m going to say this only seven times so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent. Lots of it. … I’m going to put you in touch with people, not just any people, I am going to put you in touch with the attorney general, my Attorney General Bill Barr. He has the whole weight of the American law enforcement behind him. I’m going to put you in touch with Rudy. You are going to love him. Trust me. You know what I’m asking. So I’m only going to say this a few more times. In a few more ways. By the way, don’t call me again. I will call you when you have done what I asked.’

“This is in sum and character what the President was trying to communicate with the president of Ukraine. It would be funny if it wasn’t such a graphic betrayal of the President’s oath of office.”

First off, it’s clear that Schiff is not attempting to portray his summary of Trump’s call as a some sort of verbatim retelling. Schiff literally says before he starts, “in not so many words, this is the essence of what the President communicates.” Unless you are being willfully obtuse, you have now been signaled to understand that what comes next from Schiff is his interpretation of the call. He is not saying: “here’s exactly what President Trump said to President Zelensky.”

Then there’s the Schiff summary itself. Trump says it bore “no relationship” to what he said on the call with Zelensky. Lucky for us, we have the transcript of that call! Here are a few side-by-side comparisons:

1) What Trump said: “I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time. Much more than the European countries are doing and they should be helping you more than they are.”

What Schiff said: “We have been very good to your country, very good. No other country has done as much as we have.”

2) What Trump said: “I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very, very good to Ukraine.”

What Schiff said: “But you know what? I don’t see much reciprocity here.”

3) What Trump said: “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.”

What Schiff said: “I have a favor I want from you though.”

4) What Trump said: “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great.”

What Schiff said: “I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent. Lots of it. … I’m going to put you in touch with people, not just any people, I am going to put you in touch with the attorney general, my attorney general Bill Barr.”

5) What Trump said: “I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call, and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it.”

What Schiff said: “I’m going to put you in touch with Rudy. You are going to love him. Trust me. You know what I’m asking. So I’m only going to say this a few more times. In a few more ways.”

It’s not all that different, right? Yes, Schiff embellishes in places – “lots” of dirt on Biden, “you are going to love” Rudy Giuliani – but, in the main, what Schiff said Trump said is, in fact, what Trump said. Not word for word, but certainly in its sentiments.

(And obviously, even IF Schiff had completely botched his representation of Trump’s words, that is not, uh, treason.)

The President hadn’t let it go by Monday afternoon, telling reporters, “He actually took words and made it up.”

So why has Trump fixated on this? The shortest answer is that the President always needs a villain to focus his ire on. Schiff looks like that guy for now. The longer answer is that Schiff’s opening statement drew the ire of conservative media outlets who insisted he was purposely trying to misquote Trump. Which a) he wasn’t and b) he didn’t. Remember always that Trump’s lens on the world is cable TV, and Fox News in particular. When he sees his conservative friends going nuts about what Schiff said, he picks it up and elevates it – in hopes that his supporters will just take his word for it.

Which, well, they probably will. But that doesn’t mean what Trump is saying Schiff said is accurate. Not even close.