Schiff: 'Alarm bells' should go off when Trump calls something 'fake'

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffIntel Dem decries White House 'gag order' after Bannon testimony 'Total free-for-all' as Bannon clashes with Intel members Mueller has subpoenaed Bannon in Russia probe: report MORE (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday that “alarm bells” should go off whenever President Trump calls something “fake,” adding the White House is trying to mislead the country into believing there is no connection between Russian officials and Trump campaign associates.

“I would tell people, whenever they see the president use the word 'fake,' it ought to set off alarm bells,” Schiff told host Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Schiff said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) was part of a White House ploy to distract attention away from Russian meddling in the election.

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“It certainly is an attempt to distract and to hide the origin of the materials, to hide the White House's hand. The question is, of course, why? And I think the answer to the question is this effort to point the Congress in other directions, basically say, ‘Don't look at me, don't look at Russia, there is nothing to see here,’” Schiff said.

Nunes recently came under fire for publicly announcing a source had intelligence documents that suggested the Obama administration inadvertently collected information on Trump transition associates during a broader intelligence probe. Nunes made the announcement without involving Schiff or his committee, and then proceeded to the White House to brief Trump on his findings.

It was later reported that Nunes had a meeting at the White House the day before he met with Trump, leading critics to speculate that Nunes is trying to legitimize Trump’s surveillance accusations and to claim he has gotten too close to the White House. 

Schiff on Sunday slammed Nunes for the way in which he reviewed the source’s intelligence reports.

“It doesn't need to be done, you know, by night through stealth at the White House. The only reason to do that, again, is if you want to hide where these materials are really coming from and who is behind it,” the Democratic lawmaker said, adding that both the Senate and House intelligence committees should be able to review the documents.

Schiff on Friday viewed the documents, telling Tapper on Sunday some red flags were raised.  

“First, the deputy assistant to the White House informed me when I went to see them that these are exactly the same materials that were shown to the chairman. Now, this is a very interesting point. How does the White House know that these are the same materials that were shown to the chairman, if the White House wasn't aware what the chairman was being shown?” Schiff asked.

“And the second point was also made to me. And this is -- I think was also underscored by Sean Spicer -- and that is, it was told to me by the deputy assistant that these materials were produced in the ordinary course of business,” Schiff added.

Schiff said the events detracted from his priority: investigating Russia’s interference in the election.

“I think part of the reason why that was done is this effort to deflect attention from the Russia investigation, to raise other issues, to effectively create a cloud through which the public cannot see what is at stake here. And what is at stake here is a foreign intervention in our election, a very serious issue about whether U.S. persons were involved, an investigation that is being conducted by the FBI into possible coordination with the Trump campaign,” Schiff said.

--This report was updated at 12:23 p.m.