Adam Schiff discusses rise of authoritarianism at NYU Law event

At an NYU event, former impeachment prosecutor Adam Schiff expressed concerns about the future of democracy following the 2020 presidential election.


U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff led the first impeachment of Donald Trump. On Wednesday, Nov. 10, he spoke about the 2021 impeachment trial following the Jan. 6 insurrection and his new book at a virtual event with NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Katie Brown, Contributing Writer

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) discussed the global push toward authoritarianism, his involvement in the Trump impeachment trials and his new book in a virtual event with NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice.

Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center, a law and public policy think tank at the NYU School of Law, placed the event in the context of the state of democracy in the United States.

“We at the Brennan Center believe very passionately that right now, we are engaged, all of us, in a great fight for the future of American democracy,” Waldman said to around 700 attendees. “We all feel that the stresses and strains on our system are significant — that it is under attack in significant ways. As we learned this year and in years before, those institutions, democracy, our system is a lot more fragile than a lot of us thought.”

Schiff, who led the prosecution team during former President Donald Trump’s impeachment in January 2020, spoke mainly about the impeachment trial, which followed the Jan. 6 insurrection. He believes that economic hardships triggered by deindustrialization and the prevalence of fake news have triggered a global rise in autocratic politics.

“The last decade has millions of people around the world desperately fearing they’re going to lose what they have,” Schiff said. “Now, people tune into the news they want to hear, and more so, get their news curated to them through social media. It shows us only what we want to see and often leads us through algorithms down the darkest of rabbit holes.”

Schiff also discussed his memoir “Midnight in Washington,” which was published last month. In the book, he argues that the Trump administration weakened democracy and compromised the Republican Party. He noted that Trump’s influence is visible in Republicans’ refusals to denounce the former president’s false claims of election fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

“Midnight is still with us,” Schiff said. “Instead of rejecting Donald Trump and rejecting the big lie that led to the insurrection, Republicans in leadership positions in Congress and elsewhere have embraced the lie that led us there.”

The Brennan Center’s next event will be a virtual conversation on democracy and social media on Nov. 16. The event will be moderated by Julia Angwin, editor-in-chief of data journalism nonprofit The Markup, with featured speakers former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick and Rob Reich and Jeremy Weinstein, co-authors of the book “System Error: Where Big Tech Went Wrong and How We Can Reboot.”

Contact Katie Brown at [email protected].