Pelosi rushes to Schiff's defense

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Trump tweets on Yovanovitch show his 'insecurity as an imposter' On The Money: Trump asks Supreme Court to block Dem subpoena for financial records | Kudlow 'very optimistic' for new NAFTA deal | House passes Ex-Im Bank bill opposed by Trump, McConnell Overnight Defense: Ex-Ukraine ambassador offers dramatic day of testimony | Talks of 'crisis' at State Department | Trump tweets criticism of envoy during hearing | Dems warn against 'witness intimidation' | Trump defends his 'freedom of speech' MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday rushed to the defense of Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump opens new line of impeachment attack for Democrats Yovanovitch impeachment testimony gives burst of momentum to Democrats Five takeaways from ex-ambassador's dramatic testimony MORE (D-Calif.) amid a fusillade of attacks from President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump opens new line of impeachment attack for Democrats Bloomberg to spend 0M on anti-Trump ads in battleground states New witness claims first-hand account of Trump's push for Ukraine probes MORE and other top Republicans demanding that the House Intelligence Committee chairman vacate his seat on the panel — or resign from Congress altogether.
 
Pelosi said Schiff's GOP critics are launching desperate attacks to distract from the facts surrounding Trump's dealings with Russian figures both during and since the 2016 campaign — an issue Schiff and committee Democrats continue to investigate.
 
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"What is the president afraid of? Is he afraid of the truth, that he would go after ... a respected chairman of a committee in the Congress? I think they're just scaredy cats; they just don't know what to do. So they have to make an attack," Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol.
 
"It's their own insecurity, their own fear of the truth, their fear of the facts, and their fear of an effective patriotic leader, in his measured way, who's going to make sure the American people know the truth," she added.
 
Schiff, the top Democrat on the Intelligence panel throughout Trump's presidency, came under fire from Republicans this week following the end of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE's 22-month investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election. In a brief outline of Mueller's findings, released Sunday, Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrGOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse DOJ watchdog won't let witnesses submit written feedback on investigation into Russia probe: report Bill Clinton advises Trump to ignore impeachment: 'You got hired to do a job' MORE said the exhaustive probe found no criminal conspiracy between Russia and Trump's team.
 
Throughout the Mueller investigation, Schiff was a frequent guest on cable news programs, where he asserted there was already enough evidence to conclude that Trump had "colluded" with Moscow to help his presidential victory — a message he reiterated this week.
 
“There was a big difference between whether there was evidence of collusion — and I think that evidence is in plain sight — and whether you can establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a criminal conspiracy,” he told CNN on Monday.
 
All nine Republican members of the Intelligence Committee delivered a letter to Schiff on Thursday urging him to relinquish his gavel.
 
"We have no faith in your ability to discharge your duties in a manner consistent with your constitutional responsibility and urge your immediate resignation as chairman of this committee,” said Rep. Mike ConawayKenneth (Mike) Michael ConawayAudience applauds, GOP microphone turned off at end of Yovanovitch hearing Democrats say Trump tweet is 'witness intimidation,' fuels impeachment push Live coverage: Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies in public impeachment hearing MORE (Texas), a senior Republican on the panel.
 
Trump, hours earlier, had called on Schiff to resign from Congress.
 
"Congressman Adam Schiff, who spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking, should be forced to resign from Congress!" Trump tweeted.
 
A defiant Schiff confronted his critics head on Thursday, accusing Republicans of whitewashing well-established contacts between Russian figures and Trump's campaign during the campaign, including a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with the president's eldest son.
 
Pelosi, a few hours later, piled on, calling the criticisms "shameful, sad [and] irresponsible," while going after Schiff's predecessor atop the committee — Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesFive takeaways from ex-ambassador's dramatic testimony White House releases rough transcript of early Trump-Ukraine call minutes before impeachment hearing Live coverage: Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies in public impeachment hearing MORE (R-Calif.) — for what she characterized as "almost criminal behavior."
 
Almost two years ago, Nunes had publicly recused himself from the investigation into Russia's election meddling after the Ethics Committee opened its own probe into whether he had disclosed classified information. Pelosi on Thursday said the recusal was a charade, suggesting Nunes was working behind the scenes to protect his White House ally all along.
 
"He should have recused himself. He gave you the impression that he recused himself, but he never did," she said. "He acted in a very bad way."