Drawing GOP Fire, Schiff Ramps Up Collusion Outrage

Rep. Adam Schiff became chairman of the House Intelligence Committee after Democrats took control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections. In this photo from a year ago, the California Democrat is seen exiting a secure area to speak to reporters as the GOP majority prepared to end its participation in the Russia probe, officially shutting down the panel’s investigation. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (CN) – In a unanimous challenge Thursday to their committee’s Democratic chair, all nine Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee demanded the immediate resignation of Representative Adam Schiff.

The lawmakers issued the call this morning at a hearing on Russia’s use of oligarchs and covert intelligence to manipulate both the 2016 election in the U.S. and other international politics.

President Donald Trump kicked off the movement hours earlier with a tweet: “Congressman Adam Schiff, who spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking, should be forced to resign from Congress!”

Representative Mike Conaway, R-Texas, argued Thursday that resignation is appropriate because Schiff has promoted a “demonstrably false narrative” of the probe by special counsel Robert Mueller into the 2016 election.

While it is undisputed that Russia meddled in the election to secure Trump’s election, Conaway said Schiff should be expelled for suggesting that evidence also indicates Trump colluded in that effort.

“The findings of the special counsel conclusively refute your past and present exertions, and have exposed you of having abused your position to knowingly promote false information,” Conaway said. “Your actions … are incompatible with your duty as chairman of this committee. We have no faith in your ability to discharge your duties in a manner consistent with your constitutional responsibility.”

Special counsel Mueller submitted a report on his investigation last week to Attorney General William Barr, but the details of that report remain under seal. On Sunday, Barr released a summary that says Mueller made no finding either way on whether Trump committed obstruction.

Schiff, long at odds with Republicans on the committee, bristled as his fellow lawmakers demanded he step down.

“My colleagues may think it is OK the president’s son was offered dirt as part of an effort to help Trump,” Schiff said, referring to Donald Trump Jr. “My colleagues may think it is OK when the president’s son was offered a pivotal role in the campaign but did not call the FBI nor did he refuse the foreign help. No, instead, that son said he would ‘love’ that information.”

Schiff concluded his remarks after naming each of Trump-connected individuals who were either charged or convicted by the special counsel, including the president’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

 “You may say that it is all OK, that this is just what you need to do win,” Schiff said. “You may think that. I don’t think it is OK. I think it is immoral, unethical, unpatriotic and yes, I think it is corrupt and evidence of collusion.”

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rebuffed the criticism of Schiff during her weekly press conference.

“I think they are just scaredy cats,” Pelosi said of Republicans. “They just don’t know what to do, so they have to make an attack. They did the wrong thing, the American people know that. It is their own insecurity, their own fear of the truth, their fear of the facts.”

Renewing her calls for Barr to release the Mueller report, Pelosi said called the demands against Schiff “shameful, sad and irresponsible.”

Republicans who attended the first half of Thursday’s hearing departed early, missing over an hour of testimony on the threat of Russian kompromat – or blackmail – from panelists such as Michael McFaul, the former ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama, and Steven Hall, the former chief of Russian operations for the CIA.

McFaul urged Congress not to underestimate the threat of interference from the Kremlin.

“Putin is a national-security threat,” McFaul said, said of Russia’s president, now in his fourth term.

Contending that Putin has become more autocratic over the years, McFaul said the increasing power Putin has given to the country’s intelligence officers keeps Russia from growing economically.

Because the Russian public and international business community are aware of balance, McFaul said, Putin needs an external enemy.

McFaul also spoke about the tendency of entities that conduct surveillance or related individuals to invest millions in Russian real estate ventures.

He said this allows the Kremlin to do more than gather damaging information, while also empowering oligarchs to keep funds flowing through illegal back channels, exerting their influence where it benefits them most.

The panelists recommended that the United States impose additional sanctions on powerful oligarchs with ties to Russia, but Representative Jim Himes said that more needs to be done.

“The U.S. should propagate the idea that if financing is secured from a Russian entity, the person should at least be aware that it may come with expectations from Putin,” said Himes, a Connecticut Democrat.

Hall was careful to stress that most Russian banks and businesses operate legitimately.

“But there could be a moment, at any time, when you can receive a call from the Kremlin,” Hall said.

The panelists offered no answer this morning as to whether President Trump’s 2016 campaign was compromised or if the campaign had a hand in obstruction or if it colluded with Russia. 

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