House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff fought back against Republican calls to step down from his powerful post, arguing that regardless of special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings, President Donald Trump and members of his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia.
At the opening of a committee hearing Thursday, Rep. Michael Conaway of Texas read from a letter to Schiff signed by all nine of the Republican members, stating they have “no faith” in his leadership in light of his past and present promotion of a “demonstrably false narrative” that the president and his campaign colluded with Russia.
The letter noted that, on March 22, 2017, two months into Trump’s presidency, Schiff went on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and unequivocally stated that he — the then-ranking member of the Intelligence Committee — possessed knowledge of “more than circumstantial evidence” of collusion, but could not “go into particulars.”
The Republicans recounted Schiff’s repeated public statements “implied knowledge of classified facts supporting the collusion allegations.”
They reminded California Democrat that in addition to the Mueller investigation, the Intelligence Committee “conducted a thorough investigation related to the 2016 Russian efforts to interfere in the elections,” finding no evidence that Trump or his campaign colluded with Moscow.
The letter further highlighted that, as ranking member, Schiff’s minority views were included in the report, which was released last April, but he offered no evidence to support the claim of collusion then.
The lawmakers further pointed out that the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee has publicly stated he has reached the same conclusion after his committee investigated the matter.
Despite all this, the GOP representatives wrote that Schiff continues “to proclaim in the media that there is ‘significant evidence of collusion'” and has pledged to continue to investigate the president and the people around him.
Schiff told The Washington Post on Sunday that “undoubtedly there is collusion,” after Attorney General William Barr released the findings of the Mueller report, stating there was none.
“Your actions both past and present are incompatible with your duty as Chairman of this Committee,” the letter concluded. “We have no faith in your ability to discharge your duties in a manner consistent with your Constitutional responsibility and urge your immediate resignation as Chairman of this Committee.”
After Conaway finished reading the letter, Schiff launched into a litany of reasons why he felt the president was corrupt and believed Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.
A significant portion of his remarks focused on the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
“You might think it’s OK that their only disappointment after that meeting was that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn’t better. You might think it’s OK. I don’t,” said Schiff.
In a July 2017 statement, Trump Jr. wrote that it became clear to him shortly into the meeting that the promise of potentially helpful information about Clinton was just a pretext to talk about Magnitsky Act sanctions and Moscow’s response barring the adoption of Russian children by Americans. Veselnitskaya, in fact, had no negative information about Clinton’s dealings in Russia.
“I interrupted and advised her that my father was not an elected official, but rather a private citizen, and that her comments and concerns were better addressed if and when he held public office,” Trump Jr. said.
Schiff also stated that Manafort offered campaign polling data to “someone linked to Russian intelligence.”
Politico reported that Mueller’s team accused Manafort of giving polling data to a Ukrainian associate, with ties to Russian central intelligence.
Schiff then set his sights on Trump specifically.
“You might think it’s OK that the president himself called on Russia to hack his opponent’s emails if they were listening,” said Schiff. “You might think it’s OK that later that day the Russians attempted to hack a server affiliated with that campaign. I don’t think that’s OK.”
Following the release of Democratic National Committee emails by Wikileaks in July 2016 — that some accused Russian hackers of first obtaining — then-presidential candidate Trump said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails (from Hillary Clinton) that are missing. I think you will likely be rewarded mightily by our press.”
The businessman had also stated that he had no idea whether Russia was behind the hacks, and later said when questioned about his remarks that he was clearly engaging in sarcasm.
Schiff concluded his chastisement of his GOP colleagues by saying, “You might say that’s all OK, that that’s just what you need to do to win. But I don’t think it’s OK. I think it’s immoral, I think it’s unethical, I think it’s unpatriotic and, yes, I think it’s corrupt, and evidence of collusion.”
The chairman claimed he did accept the special counsel’s conclusions that neither the president nor his campaign engaged in criminal conduct.
However, “I do not think that conduct, criminal or not is OK. And the day we do think that’s OK is the day we will look back and say, ‘That is the day America has lost its way.'”
Earlier Thursday morning, Trump called for Schiff’s resignation not only from the Intelligence Committee but also from the House completely.
“Congressman Adam Schiff, who spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking, should be forced to resign from Congress!” he tweeted.
Congressman Adam Schiff, who spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking, should be forced to resign from Congress!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2019
In response to the GOP calls for Schiff to be removed as committee chair, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters she is “proud” of the work he is doing and that Republicans fear him because he’s an “effective, patriotic leader.”
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