Republicans demand Adam Schiff testify as a “fact witness” in the impeachment inquiry he is leading

Republicans admitted the stunt was "unlikely to succeed" as they struggle to defend Trump from mounting evidence

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published November 5, 2019 12:09PM (EST)

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

House Republicans plan to call Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff as one of the first witnesses in the impeachment inquiry the California Democrat is leading, claiming that he is a “fact witness.”

A Republican source told Fox News that the party plans to call Schiff for questioning, “even if they are unlikely to succeed.”

Republicans want to question Schiff about his contacts with the whistleblower, whose complaint about Trump’s July 25 phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pressing him to investigate the Bidens, triggered the impeachment probe.

The Republican source told Fox that lawmakers want to ask Schiff, “How many times did he meet with the whistleblower? What did they advise the whistleblower to do? How much was Schiff involved in this? Did he recommend the whistleblower give the complaint to the intelligence community inspector general, even though there was no intel component, so that he could be involved?”

President Donald Trump and Republicans have baselessly claimed that the whistleblower complaint was orchestrated by Schiff. Trump has claimed that Schiff “helped write” the whistleblower complaint, citing news reports which only revealed that the whistleblower had approached an Intel committee staffer after his concerns were dismissed by the CIA. The whistleblower did not reveal the details of his complaint to the committee at the time, the New York Times reported, and was instructed by the staffer to find a lawyer to advise him and an appropriate inspector general to whom he could submit the complaint.

Schiff has denied that he ever had any personal contact with the whistleblower.

Republicans hatched the plan to target Schiff after the House of Representatives formally approved rules for the impeachment process last week. Though every Republican voted against the resolution, the rules give Republicans in the House minority the ability to subpoena witnesses as long as Democratic committee chairs agree. If the chair opposes the subpoena, Republicans can appeal to the full committee. Republicans acknowledged to Fox that it was obviously unlikely that Democrats would agree to their plan, though it did not stop them from airing their demand all over TV.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., claimed to CBS News on Sunday that Schiff should be the “first person” brought in to testify, as well as his staff.

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, went after Schiff following the approval of the impeachment rules.

“Come to the Judiciary Committee," he said. "Be the first witness and take every question asked of you. Starting with your own involvement of the whistleblower.”

Schiff has already repeatedly denied Republican claims that he was involved with the whistleblower.

"We have not spoken directly with the whistleblower," he told MSNBC last month. "We would like to, but I'm sure the whistleblower has concerns that he has not been advised, as the law requires, by the inspector general or the director of national intelligence just as to how he is to communicate with Congress."

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who may reportedly be temporarily moved to the Intelligence Committee from his post on the Oversight Committee for the duration of the impeachment inquiry, appeared to downplay the likelihood of Republicans being able to grill Schiff on their baseless allegations.

“Well, I don’t know about Schiff,” Jordan told Fox News Tuesday. “That’s Leader McCarthy’s call. If Kevin and ranking member [Devin] Nunes want that to happen, then I just want to help our team.”

Trump and Republican lawmakers have also called for the whistleblower to be called to testify, with some going as far as naming the purported whistleblower at unrelated public hearings and demanding that media outlets print the whistleblower’s name. Mark Zaid, the whistleblower’s attorney, told CBS News over the weekend that his client was willing to answer questions under oath in writing.

Jordan rejected that offer on Sunday, saying that "written answers will not provide a sufficient opportunity to probe all the relevant facts and cross-examine the so-called whistleblower."

Of course, the whistleblower’s identity and testimony would not change the facts that have come out in the weeks since he filed his complaint. The director of national intelligence, the inspector general for the intelligence community and the top lawyer at the CIA — all of whom Trump appointed — found the complaint “credible” and referred its contents for possible prosecution to the Department of Justice, which declined to pursue the allegations.

Since then, the White House released a partial transcript of the call showing that Trump solicited Zelensky to launch politically-motivated investigations while withholding nearly $400 million in military aid to the country. The partial transcript allegedly “omitted” key references to Trump’s demand that Zelensky investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, according to the testimony of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine official on the National Security Council.

Vindman is one of multiple Trump administration officials who confirmed to Congress that Trump allegedly attempted to extort Ukraine into investigating the Bidens and the 2016 election by withholding aid and a long-sought White House meeting with Zelensky.

Schiff slammed Republicans for ignoring the mounting evidence only to cry foul over an impeachment process run under the same rules as the Republican impeachment of President Bill Clinton in a USA Today op-ed Tuesday.

“The interviews we have conducted have been thorough, professional and fair, with over one hundred members from both parties eligible to attend — including nearly 50 Republicans — and equal time allotted for questioning to both Democratic and Republican members of Congress and staff,” Schiff wrote. “In line with best investigative practices first passed in Congress by the Republicans who now decry them, we have held these interviews in private to ensure that witnesses are not able to tailor their testimony to align with others at the expense of the truth.”

Schiff added: “We now know that the call was just one piece of a larger operation to redirect our foreign policy to benefit Donald Trump’s personal and political interests — not the national interest.”

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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