Yesterday the House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence voted to release a four-page summary document alleging surveillance abuses by the Justice Department and FBI. The committee’s memo has been available to all 435 House members for more than a week. Some of those who read it described it as “troubling,” “shocking,” “jaw-dropping,” “sickening,” and “criminal.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray reviewed the memo on Sunday. As soon as the committee had finished voting, ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff ran to the cameras to spin the news. From that point, he began explaining things in a non-truthful manner. This inability or unwillingness to accurately convey information is not a surprise so much as a regular feature of his work with journalists, but it’s worth noting how that played out in just one few-hour span.
1: Omitting Facts About Committee Business
For background, Schiff has spent the last week and a half upset that the majority’s memo alleging abuses was available for House review. He and his fellow Democrats had voted against making such a memo available to the House, much less the public. He said it was reckless to discuss anything in the memo and that it compromised national security. A compliant media lapped it up. He announced, though, that he had created a counter-memo in support of the Trump-Russia collusion theory we keep hearing about.
Today, as the committee gathered to vote on releasing their memo to the public, following its lengthy House review, Schiff asked the Intelligence Committee to release his memo. His memo is on the same subject matter, risking the same national security threat he had wailed about for a week, with the same supposed risk to sources and methods. Only he is okay with his memo having these supposed problems.
Unlike what happened when Republicans on the committee asked Democrats for that vote, Republicans joined with Democrats to unanimously support his memo’s release to the House — the same process used for the majority memo. Here’s his claim: “The ‘release the memo crowd’ apparently doesn’t want to release the memo now. The most they would do is say that at some indeterminate point, a week or so from now, they would consider whether to release the minority memo.”
In other words, following the exact same process used for the majority’s memo.
2: False Statements About the Committee
Schiff then went on to say, “I should also mention that it was disclosed to the minority today for the first time that the majority has evidently opened an investigation of the FBI, and an investigation of the Department of Justice. Under our committee rules, of course, that has to be the product of consultation with minority, but we learned about that for the first time here today.”
One trademark of Schiff’s leaks to the media is that they’re frequently process complaints. In December, a media outlet ran with Schiff’s process complaint alleging that House Republicans were “quietly” investigating perceived corruption at DOJ and the FBI without notifying minority members.
Now, it’s an implausible claim given that Republicans all the way up to and including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan had been screaming bloody murder about FBI and DOJ obstruction of committee requests. Perhaps the subpoenas to these entities from the committee were a clue that they were looking into them. Just because Schiff voted against finding out information from these agencies doesn’t mean the committee agreed with him. It certainly doesn’t mean he was kept in the dark.
Besides, Rep. Devin Nunes actually went on live national TV to talk about his committee’s investigation into these matters.
3: False Information about Nunes
Finally, Schiff referenced a committee hearing and added: “The very next day, our chairman went on what is known as the ‘midnight run,’ to obtain documents that he would, the following day go to present to the White House, claiming that they showed evidence of an unmasking conspiracy of the Obama administration.”
Well, it’s “known” as the “midnight run” because Schiff mischaracterized it as Nunes sneaking into the White House in the “dead of night” to avoid detection. Reporter Tim Mak, then with Daily Beast, wrote a story sourced to anonymous sources, if you can imagine, that turned out to be not true. It told a dramatic tale of jumping out of cars in the middle of the night.
Yet it was not a “midnight run” but a visit to a national security staffer in the middle of the day, while the sun was out. Nunes corrected the false reporting on the record — on air with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, in fact — on March 27, 2017. It’s around at the 4:00 minute mark of an interview full of process questions.
Schiff is such a partisan speaker and actor that it’s odd to see him speaking with any authority about a serious investigation into abuses at the agencies he purports to oversee. For instance, he said:
We would very soon learn that in fact he’d obtained that information from the White House, and it was a charade. That charade was designed to do the White House’s bidding. And I’m afraid today is just the continuation of that same priority of the chairman and that same phenomenon. This is an effort to circle the wagons around the White House and distract from the Russia probe.
As Jonah Goldberg snarked:
Yet, or maybe because of this, Schiff is clearly one of CNN’s best sources for their Russia-Trump collusion theory, no matter how much they get burned.
Schiff is portrayed by many in the media as being a straight shooter. His record in reality is of fanning the flames of absolutely every single Trump-Russia collusion allegation out there. Just this past week he pushed the false claim that Americans’ desire to see the House Intel Committee’s memo was in reality a Russian bot operation. Despite being a ranking member of an oversight committee, he lacks curiosity and interest into potential abuses at the FBI.
Nothing seems to have merited his attention in the slightest. He has not sought to follow-up on explosive texts about a Russia probe being an “insurance policy” because agents couldn’t take “the risk” of a Trump presidency. He is not interested in reports of the wife of top Justice official Bruce Ohr literally being employed by Fusion GPS, or by his change in employment as a result of this revelation. He had no problem with Fusion GPS being funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign. He’s opposed subpoenas to Fusion, to the Department of Justice, to the FBI.
The memo won’t be released until this weekend at the earliest, due to House rules giving the president five days to object to its release.