Top Republicans call on Adam Schiff to resign as chairman of House Intelligence Committee

Schiff shrugged off the mounting attacks, saying he "would expect nothing less" from his Republican colleagues

Published March 26, 2019 4:59PM (EDT)

Adam Schiff         (AP/Cliff Owen)
Adam Schiff (AP/Cliff Owen)

Republican lawmakers are calling on Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., to resign as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in the wake of a summary of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation that said investigators did not find evidence to prove criminal collusion between President Donald Trump's presidential campaign and the Russia during the 2016 election.

Schiff, one of the president's most outspoken critics, has suggested in recent months that publicly-available information about alleged interactions between staffers on Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russian agents amounted to proof of collusion.

Attorney General William Barr wrote Sunday in four-page letter to Congress that Mueller did not find proof of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. Barr's delivery of Mueller's findings has launched a new chapter in the battle over Mueller's probe. Democratic lawmakers are demanding that the Justice Department release Mueller's full report, as they dismiss the attorney general's summary of the probe as insufficient and incomplete, while Republicans have called for Congress to move on from the investigation, which they believe has vindicated Trump.

Following Barr's report, some Republicans have called on Schiff to resign as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, citing past comments from the California Democrat, who has repeatedly declared he had seen evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia "in plain sight."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., criticized Schiff's previous comments on Fox News and demanded he step down as the chair of the House Intelligence panel.

"[The] Mueller report just came through and proved that he lied," McCarthy said in an interview Monday with the conservative cable network. "He should apologize to the American public, and he should step back from being chair of the intel. committee."

McCarthy's deputy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., also urged Schiff to step down from the intelligence panel. "Chairman Schiff said he had more than circumstantial evidence that there was collusion," Scalise told reporters Monday. "Whether he was misleading people or he was misled himself, he ought to be held accountable."

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, a member of the Intelligence Committee, told CNN on Tuesday that he believes Schiff "needs to step aside. I think that his leadership is compromised and it's compromised, as I was saying, for three reasons."

"One, he has stood in front of the American people and said things that were not true. Two, he's attacked his fellow Republicans on the committee and been divisive and saying things about the Republicans on the committee that aren't true," Turner continued. "And the third thing is: He's transformed the committee from its focus, which is protecting our national security and the intelligence community, to being a vendetta against [President Donald Trump's] family and even the Trump campaign."

The White House took its attacks on Schiff a step further, calling for the congressman to vacate his seat in the House of Representatives altogether. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told Fox News on Monday that Schiff "ought to resign today." She also falsely claimed the California Democrat "has been on every TV show 50 times a day for practically the last two years promising Americans that the president would either be impeached or indicted."

"He has no right ― as somebody who's been peddling a lie day after day after day, unchallenged," Conway continued. "Somebody should have put him under oath and said, 'You have evidence? Where is it?'"

Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, also took aim at Schiff, even using the hashtag "#FullOfSchiff."

"Couldn't agree more with my friend @GOPLeader," he said, referring to McCarthy's call for Schiff to step down from his committee post. "After spending 2 years lying to the American people about the collusion conspiracy, this truther is STILL doubling down on his lies. He's a hack & serial fraud. If he had an ounce of integrity, he would resign today. #FullOfSchiff"

Schiff, who took over as committee chair in January, appeared to shrug off calls for his resignation from the committee. He told CNN he was "more than used to attacks from my GOP colleagues and I would expect nothing less."

Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., defended Schiff against the mounting attacks.

"Democrats aren't going to be intimidated by the White House or congressional Republicans," a spokeswoman for Pelosi told Politico. "We're not going to be distracted from securing the release of the full Mueller report and the underlying evidence, and we will continue to pursue legitimate oversight, because that’s what the Constitution requires."

Schiff said on Sunday that Mueller's completed report did not undermine his past comments about evidence related to collusion.

"We're going to have to wait to see the report," he said during an appearance on CBS' "Face The Nation." "That report needs to be made public ASAP, so we can evaluate the body of evidence on the issue of conspiracy and look at why Bob Mueller decided not to indict."

"Now vis-à-vis the president, Bob Mueller can't indict the president," Schiff continued. "So the fact that no future indictments either on conspiracy or obstruction of justice doesn’t tell us about the quantum of evidence. So I think we need to wait to see the report."

Mueller submitted his report Friday to Barr, who is not required by the regulations governing the special counsel to notify Congress of more than "brief notifications, with an outline of the actions and the reasons for them." Barr's summary report dealt a blow to Democrats, who had hoped Mueller's report would bolster their wide-ranging investigations into Trump and his business dealings.

The president appeared to celebrate the findings, declaring the Justice Department's findings to be a "complete and total EXONERATION." But Trump did not appear ready to let the matter drop, calling the probe "an illegal takedown that failed." In an apparent reference to Democrats, he added that "hopefully somebody's going to look at the other side."

It remains unclear what other findings Barr will release, although he has previously pledged to make as many of Mueller's findings public as possible. The attorney general is working with Mueller to determine what information from his report could be released publicly — though anything short of Mueller's complete and unredacted report, along with the underlying evidence and materials, is unlikely to be enough for the Democrats, who have vowed to subpoena Mueller and Barr, if needed, to push for full disclosure.

Trump himself said he believes Mueller's full report should be made public, even as he criticized its existence."Let it come out," Trump told reporters last week. "Let people see it." However, it is also unclear whether his administration would fight subpoenas to compel Mueller to testify or attempt to block the release of grand jury material.

Barr "needs to make that report publicly available," Schiff said Sunday. "The special counsel spent two years almost investigating this. The public has a right to know and a need to know so that we don't have to ask questions about what the evidence was on either of these core subjects of his investigation."

By Shira Tarlo

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