WASHINGTON — Republicans on Thursday urged House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff to resign over his continued claim that President Donald Trump colluded with Russia despite special counsel Robert Mueller conclusions he did not.
Sparks flew as Republicans’ echoed Trump as they demanded that Schiff resign at the start of a hearing into Russian attempts to compromise Trump during the 2016 election — held by Schiff just four days after the release of a summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
One Republican accused Schiff, the California Democrat who became committee chairman in January, of “McCarthyism,” and a Democrat charged that the former chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), damaged the FBI and intelligence community.
“We have no faith in your ability to discharge the duties in a manner consistent with your constitutional responsibility and urge your immediate resignation as chairman of the committee,” said Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Tex.) as he read a letter signed by the panel’s nine Republicans.
“Despite these findings, you continue to claim to the media that there is significant evidence of collusion. Further you stated you will continue to investigate the counterintelligence issues, that is, is the president or people around him compromised in any way by hostile foreign power,” said Conaway.
Schiff responded with a litany of the contacts between Trump’s family and associates with Russia during the 2016 election, including Trump’s attempt to seek Russian President Vladimir’s approval to develop a Moscow Trump Tower during his campaign.
“You might say that’s all OK. You might say that's just what you need to do to win,” Schiff said. “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 its corrupt and evidence of collusion.”
The clash came as tensions began to mount again in anticipation of the release of all or at least some of Mueller’s confidential report, which the Justice Department confirmed is more than 300 pages long, raising questions about Attorney William Barr’s four-page summary.
Barr said he has been working with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, and Mueller himself on identifying for redaction confidential grand jury material and other information that would harm innocent people. He said it would be weeks, not months, before he releases it.
Democrats questioned Barr’s impartiality and demanded release of the full report.
“For Mr. Barr to quickly issue a four-page report in his attempt to try to exonerate Mr. Trump, and now to delay the release of an over 300-page report written by Mueller so the American people and we Senators and Congressman can see what was written, has too much of the odor of political expediency to help the man who appointed him, President Trump,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday.
In the meantime, Trump and his allies have turned up the heat on Democrats for promoting the idea that he and his campaign colluded with Russia, calling for a special counsel to probe the investigation’s origin and accusing the Obama administration of complicity.
Trump has frequently attacked Schiff, accusing him of leaking confidential information to reporters and on Thursday ahead of the hearing he demanded Schiff’s ouster not just from the committee chairmanship but from Congress.
“Congressman Adam Schiff, who spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking, should be forced to resign from Congress!” Trump tweeted.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi backed Schiff, saying Republicans are worried about what the committee under Schiff might find. “They’re just plain afraid,” Pelosi said.