Category Archives: Rep. Adam Schiff

Not just another Trump scandal – this one might actually bring him down

The New York Times, by Nicholas Fandos, Eileen Sullivan, Julian E. Barnes and Matthew Rosenberg, Sep 19, 2019

Watchdog Refuses to Detail Whistle-Blower Complaint About Trump

The complaint, being discussed in a closed meeting with House lawmakers, addresses a commitment that President Trump was said to have made to a world leader.
Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said none of the previous directors of national intelligence had ever refused to provide a whistle-blower complaint to Congress. Credit Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The internal watchdog for American spy agencies declined repeatedly in a briefing on Thursday to disclose to lawmakers the content of a potentially explosive whistle-blower complaint that is said to involve a discussion between President Trump and a foreign leader, members of Congress said.

During a private session on Capitol Hill, Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, told lawmakers he was unable to confirm or deny anything about the substance of the complaint, including whether it involved the president, according to committee members.

The complaint, which prompted a standoff between Congress and Mr. Trump’s top intelligence official, involves a commitment that Mr. Trump made in a communication with another world leader, according to a person familiar with the complaint. The Washington Post first reported the nature of the discussion. The acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, has refused to give the complaint to Congress, as is generally required by law, the latest in a series of fights over information between the Democratic-led House and the White House.

Few details of the whistle-blower complaint are known, including the identity of the world leader. And it is not obvious how a communication between Mr. Trump and a foreign leader could meet the legal standards for a whistle-blower complaint that the inspector general would deem an “urgent concern.”

Under the law, the complaint has to concern the existence of an intelligence activity that violates the law, rules or regulations, or otherwise amounts to mismanagement, waste, abuse, or a danger to public safety. But a conversation between two foreign leaders is not itself an intelligence activity.

And while Mr. Trump may have discussed intelligence activities with the foreign leader, he enjoys broad power as president to declassify intelligence secrets, order the intelligence community to act and otherwise direct the conduct of foreign policy as he sees fit, legal experts said.

Mr. Trump regularly speaks with foreign leaders and often takes a freewheeling approach. Some current and former officials said that what an intelligence official took to be a troubling commitment could have been an innocuous comment. But there has long been concern among some in the intelligence agencies that the information they share with the president is being politicized.

Andrew P. Bakaj, a former C.I.A. and Pentagon official whose legal practice specializes in whistle-blower and security clearance issues, confirmed that he is representing the official who filed the complaint. Mr. Bakaj declined to identify his client or to comment.

Mr. Trump denied wrongdoing on Thursday, explaining that he would not “say something inappropriate” on calls where aides and intelligence officials from both sides routinely listen in.

But whatever Mr. Trump said was startling enough to prompt the intelligence official to file a formal whistle-blower complaint on Aug. 12 to the inspector general for the intelligence agencies. Such a complaint is lodged through a formal process intended to protect the whistle-blower from retaliation.

Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has been locked in the standoff with Mr. Maguire over the complaint for nearly a week. He said Mr. Maguire told him that he had been instructed not to give the complaint to Congress, and that the complaint addressed privileged information — meaning the president or people close to him were involved.

Mr. Schiff told reporters after the briefing that he still did not know the contents of the complaint and had been unable to get an answer to whether the White House had been involved in suppressing it.

“I don’t think this is a problem of the law,” he said. “I think the law is written very clearly. I think the law is just fine. The problem lies elsewhere. And we’re determined to do everything we can to determine what this urgent concern is, to make sure that the national security is protected and to make sure that this whistle-blower is protected.”

Mr. Schiff said he would explore potential recourse with the House’s general counsel to try to force the release of the complaint, including potentially suing for it in court.

Mr. Schiff has said that none of the previous directors of national intelligence, a position created in 2004, had ever refused to provide a whistle-blower complaint to Congress. The House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena last week to compel Mr. Maguire to appear before the panel. He briefly refused but relented on Wednesday, and is now scheduled to appear before the committee in an open hearing next week.

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence panel, said on Thursday that he and the committee’s Republican chairman, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, also expected both the inspector general and acting director to brief them early next week and “clear this issue up.”

Mr. Maguire and Mr. Atkinson are at odds over how the complaint should be handled. Mr. Atkinson has indicated the matter should be investigated, and alerted the House and Senate Intelligence committees, while Mr. Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, says the complaint does not fall within the agencies’ purview because it does not involve a member of the intelligence community — a network of 17 agencies that does not include the White House.

[Read a pair of letters from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence about the complaint.]

The inspector general of the intelligence community “determined that this complaint is both credible and urgent, and that it should be transmitted to Congress under the clear letter of the law,” Mr. Schiff, Democrat of California, said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

Senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said the law is “very clear” that the whistle-blower complaint must be handed over to Congress.

“The Inspector General determines what level of concern it is,” said Mr. King, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Once the determination is made,” he added, the director of national intelligence “has a ministerial responsibility to share that with Congress. It is not discretionary.”

“This is based upon the principle of separation of powers and Congress’s oversight responsibility,” Mr. King said.

Mr. Maguire was named the acting director in August, after the president had announced that the previous director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, would be stepping down. Mr. Trump had planned to nominate Representative John Ratcliffe, Republican of Texas, a Trump loyalist without an extensive background in intelligence. But the president dropped the plan after lawmakers from both parties raised concerns about Mr. Ratcliffe’s qualifications and possible exaggerations on his resume.

The reports about the whistle-blower complaint touched off speculation about what Mr. Trump said and to whom.

In the weeks before the complaint was filed, Mr. Trump spoke with President Vladimir V. Putin of RussiaPrime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan and the prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte.

And current and former intelligence officials have expressed surprise that during his first few months as president, Mr. Trump shared classified information provided by an ally, Israel, with the Russian foreign minister.

Such disclosures are not illegal, but Mr. Trump flouted intelligence-sharing decorum by sharing an ally’s intelligence without express permission.

Mr. King expressed some doubt about how serious the underlying complaint might be.

“I am a little concerned it is being overblown,” Mr. King said. “On the other hand, it may be significant. But we won’t know that for a few days.”


Charlie Savage contributed reporting.  Matthew Rosenberg, a Washington-based correspondent, was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for reporting on Donald Trump and Russia. He previously spent 15 years as a foreign correspondent in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.  Nicholas Fandos is a reporter in the Washington bureau covering Congress.  Eileen Sullivan is the morning breaking news correspondent in Washington. She previously worked for The Associated Press for a decade, covering national security and criminal justice.  Julian E. Barnes is a national security reporter based in Washington, covering the intelligence agencies. Before joining The Times in 2018, he wrote about security matters for the Wall Street Journal.
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    Schiff introduces constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United

    By Rachel Frazin, The Hill, 05/08/19 11:58 AM EDT
    [See also Shiff’s press release]
    Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)

    Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Wednesday introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, which eliminated restrictions on corporate campaign spending.

    The amendment would allow Congress and states to put limits on campaign contributions, according to a statement from Schiff’s office.

    “The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United overturned decades of legal precedent and has enabled billions in dark money to pour into our elections,” Schiff said in a statement.

    The amendment would also allow states to enact laws creating public financing of campaigns.

    “Amending the Constitution is an extraordinary step, but it is the only way to safeguard our democratic process against the threat of unrestrained and anonymous spending by wealthy individuals and corporations,” he added. “This amendment will restore power to everyday citizens.”

    Schiff also announced the amendment on Twitter.

    “Our democracy is not for sale,” he wrote. “We must stop the flood of dark money from drowning out the voices of everyday citizens.”

    The 5-4 Citizens United ruling prohibited the government from limiting spending by companies, nonprofit organizations and unions on political campaign advertisements. The majority argued that such provisions would inhibit freedom of speech.

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      Adam Schiff delivers massive smackdown: Trump is “immoral,” “unpatriotic” and “corrupt”

      Repost from Salon

      Under attack from Trump and the ludicrous Devin Nunes, Intelligence Committee chair focuses on the real question

      By HEATHER DIGBY PARTON, MARCH 29, 2019 12:00PM (UTC)

      President Trump held his first rally since mid-February on Thursday in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sounding alternately buoyant and furious, he took a big victory lap and declared himself to have “won” against the witch hunt. In an extended rant right out of the gate he proclaimed:

      After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead. The collusion delusion is over. The Special Counsel has completed his report and found no collusion, no obstruction … Total exoneration, complete vindication. …

      The Russia witch hunt was a plan by those who lost the election to take power by framing innocent Americans — they suffered — with an elaborate hoax. They tried to destroy a movement like nobody has ever seen before. They did it because they refused to accept the results of the greatest presidential election results in American history … they perpetuated the single greatest hoax in the history of politics, they have to be — I’m sorry — they have to be accountable.”

      As we saw telegraphed as early as Monday, Trump wants revenge. His motto for years has been “get even” and he obviously thinks that wreaking vengeance on his political opponents will keep him in the White House past 2020. Even his decision to back the lawsuit repealing Obamacare, made against the advice of many Republicans, is really just a way for him to exact revenge on his most hated rival — who happens to be a dead man, John McCain.

      Trump went out of his way to crudely insult House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

      He didn’t talk about the size of his own neck, thankfully.  But he did get a bit more rhetorically pungent, saying, “The Democrats need to decide whether they will continue to defraud the public with ridiculous bullshit.” (Yes, he said bullshit.)

      The attack on Schiff is obviously a specific strategy to try to shut down the Intelligence Committee’s ongoing investigation into Trump and Russia. Earlier in the day Trump had tweeted out:

      When the House Intelligence Committee held a hearing later that day to hear Russia experts talk about how that country’s intelligence services infiltrate various aspects of American life, the committee’s ranking member and former chair, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., stepped up to make an opening statement:

      We should not be used as a platform to spread false information and bizarre conspiracies. We have unique capabilities and authorities to do crucial oversight work and now, frankly speaking, that is not being done.

      You read that right. Then Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, read a letter signed by all nine Republicans on the committee demanding that Schiff resign, claiming that he was promoting a demonstrably false narrative and had abused his position to knowingly promote false information about Russian collusion.

      This, coming from the same Republicans who contrived the ludicrous alternate universe around a “deep state” plot, culminating in the preposterous “Nunes memo,” could and perhaps should have resulted in convulsions of laughter in the hearing room. The idea of Nunes, the man who was caught red-handed, literally in the middle of the night, conspiring with the White House, accusing anyone else of conspiracy theories really cannot be taken seriously. He is a ridiculous person.

      But Schiff didn’t laugh. And he was right not to. This is a serious issue of national security, and he responded with one of the more memorable congressional speeches in a very long time:

      If you haven’t heard the whole thing I urge you to listen to it.

      The reason that was so important is because Schiff brought the issue back to where it rightfully belongs: in the Congress. The only thing we know right now about any criminal liability is that Robert Mueller’s investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

      But none of the events or behaviors Schiff cited are in dispute. Most of it happened right out in public. Whether it was legal or not, it was stupid and it was wrong and no president should be defended for behaving in such a craven, corrupt and unpatriotic way. What he did may not have been criminal conduct, but it was pathologically unethical. Anyone who didn’t find all that behavior suspicious has no business holding a responsible position in the United States government.

      Schiff’s speech explains something important that Trump and the Republicans fail to grasp. People know what they saw. That’s why the polls aren’t moving toward the president in the wake of Bill Barr’s letter and Trump’s triumphant victory tour. Whether the president was part of a criminal conspiracy, or was simply so ignorant and corrupt that he didn’t know or care about the ramifications of his actions, isn’t really the question. What Schiff did in that speech was to bring the subject back to the central question: Is this president acting in the interest of the people of the United States, or is he acting in the interest of Donald Trump? I think we know the answer. And it’s not OK.

      Some of the Republicans on the panel understood that what Schiff had said was a powerful indictment of their own lack of ethics and morals. After Schiff finished  and attempted to go on, one member demanded to be allowed to respond to his comments, insisting, “No one over here [on the Republican side] thinks that.”

      You don’t? Could have fooled us. At every step of the way the Republicans have acted as Trump’s accomplices, refusing even to suggest that he might have done something wrong in all this. They clearly don’t think he did.

      I’m willing to be generous and say that at the end of the day we may very well find that Trump is so dim-witted and narcissistic that he literally does not know right from wrong. That obviously makes him unfit for the presidency but it doesn’t make him guilty of conspiring with a foreign government. Fine. But all these Republicans who refuse to even acknowledge the outrageousness of his conduct definitely do know better.They are shameless and that’s hard to fight against, still less to defeat. But Adam Schiff laid out the real issue more successfully than anyone we’ve seen in recent times. Let’s hope it’s the first of many illustrative moments as the Democrats start to provide the serious oversight that has been lacking these past two years.

      HEATHER DIGBY PARTON

      Heather Digby Parton, also known as “Digby,” is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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        Video: Adam Schiff’s historic speech: “You might think it’s okay…I don’t think that’s okay.”

        Repost from Adam Schiff on Youtube
        [Here’s all you need to know about Trump collusion and obstruction. Adam Schiff speaks for me!  – Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent]

        AdamSchiff on Youtube, Mar 28, 2019
        On Thursday, March 28, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), during a House Intelligence Committee open hearing, responded to Trump and Congressional Republican’s calls for his resignation.

        [Significant moment in Schiff’s remarks at 3:27]

        “You might say that’s all okay.  You might say that’s just what you need to do to win….But I don’t think that’s okay.

          • 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.

        “Now I’ve always said that the question of whether this amounts to proof of conspiracy was another matter.  Whether the Special Counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt the proof of that crime would be up to the Special Counsel and I would accept his decision, and I do.  He’s a good and honorable man and a good prosecutor.

        “But I do not think that conduct – criminal or not – is okay.  And the day we DO think that’s okay is the day we will look back and say, that is the day America lost its way.”

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