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Schiff knew Ukraine’s Zelenskyy on paper amid impeachment process, but secret visit was a first

It was surreal and sobering enough as it was. But it was doubly so for Rep. Adam Schiff.

There was Schiff, on a secret trip last weekend led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the Ukraine, meeting with the nation’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy amid the three-month-old Russian bombardment that has killed and injured thousands and jolted the world.

Schiff, the 11-term Democratic congressman from L.A. and Burbank, was at Pelosi’s side as part of a delegation of Democrats to the Ukraine, where in Kyiv they engaged in a three-hour-long talk with Zelenskyy, reviewing military, economic, and humanitarian assistance needed as Ukraine defends itself.

For Schiff, the trip put him face to face with a “town of contrasts.”

“We saw people walking through the park you’d never know there was a war on,” he said Tuesday as he visited a Hollywood childcare center in his district, a day after returning from the trip, which included a jaunt to Poland. “At the same time, there were other areas that looked like a ghost town.”

KYIV, UKRAINE – APRIL 30: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi during a visit by a U.S. congressional delegation on April 30, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. The US Speaker of the House led a congressional delegation, which included Rep. Jim McGovern, Rep. Gregory Meeks and Rep. Adam Schiff, on a secret meeting with the Ukrainian president that was announced the next day, as they left the country for nearby Poland. (Photo by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/Handout via Getty Images)

Just a few days before, cruise missiles had hit the town, he said.

But the trip took on another dimension for Schiff, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He also came face to face with the man who just a few years ago was at the core of an impeachment prosecution of former President Donald Trump that was led by Schiff.

This was the same Zelenskyy, after all, who was on the other end of the line of a June 25, 2019 phone call when Trump allegedly asked the Ukrainian president to investigate the conduct of his political foe, and then potential presidential contender, Joe Biden. Schiff’s investigation would lead to the impeachment of Trump, who was acquitted in the Senate in 2020. And Schiff would emerge as a hero among Democrats and among Trump’s and his supporters’ greatest foes in the twitter-fueled zeitgeist of the ensuing years of the Trump presidency.

All this, and Schiff had never actually met Zelenskyy.

And as Schiff settled back into his district this week, shaking hands and interacting with constituents, the moment of actually meeting the president — who has emerged as a Churchill-like figure amid the Russian invasion of his nation —  for the first time last weekend was not far from his mind.

“I had never met him, but I knew a lot about him …  because he was the subject of an impeachment trial that I led in the Senate,” said Schiff. “It’s one thing to study someone and to learn about them. It’s another to sit down with them.”

KYIV, UKRAINE - APRIL 30: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi during a visit by a U.S. congressional delegation on April 30, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. The US Speaker of the House led a congressional delegation, which included Rep. Jim McGovern, Rep. Gregory Meeks and Rep. Adam Schiff, on a secret meeting with the Ukrainian president that was announced the next day, as they left the country for nearby Poland. (Photo by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/Handout via Getty Images)
KYIV, UKRAINE – APRIL 30: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi during a visit by a U.S. congressional delegation on April 30, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. The US Speaker of the House led a congressional delegation, which included Rep. Jim McGovern, Rep. Gregory Meeks and Rep. Adam Schiff, on a secret meeting with the Ukrainian president that was announced the next day, as they left the country for nearby Poland. (Photo by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/Handout via Getty Images)

Schiff called Zelenskyy a global “inspiration,” given that he’s risen from being a comedic actor on a TV sitcom with no military and political experience to a symbol of defiance against tyranny.

Given all that, his rise “is all the more extraordinary,” Schiff said.

Those conversations centered around the needs of Ukraine as the war moves from closer, urban combat to more longer-range battles over wider areas in the east and south of the country.

And there was the human toll.

Schiff spent Tuesday touring Para Los Ninos childhood education center in Hollywood, where he announced federal funds to support mental health support to young children.

There was an analogy to Ukraine from the event, Schiff said, noting the refugee crisis spawned by the invasion, and the number of children in that country experiencing trauma.

“It made me think about the extraordinary hardship that those families are going through,” he said.

Though the Zelenskyy visit was a first since the invasion, it was not the first visit to the region by a congressional delegation.

In April, a group of lawmakers visited the Ukraine-Poland border. The group included Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita.

Garcia told Fox 11 at the time that “We saw very proud refugees, very strong Ukrainians coming across the border in Poland as well as in Romania. We saw strong allies in the form of Poland and Romania helping to get significant military equipment into Ukraine.”

Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) participates in a round table discussion after touring Para Los Ninos early childhood education center in Los Angeles Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) participates in a round table discussion after touring Para Los Ninos early childhood education center in Los Angeles Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Garcia said he went with a goal of making to make sure “that we’ve authorized and appropriated in support of Ukraine, up to $13 billion dollars in military equipment, is getting to the right people, getting to the fighters at the front lines. ” He added that he wanted to  gain insight on making sure Taiwan, in relation to China, doesn’t meet a similar fate as Ukraine.

Schiff and Garcia don’t share much common ground on policy. But Schiff did note one thing.

“Putin has succeeded in doing what no one else has succeeded in doing lately, which is bring us together.”



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