House conservatives press Schiff over knowledge of whistleblower complaint

Conservatives in the House are demanding that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffFive things to know about Tuesday's impeachment hearings Nunes complains Democrats adding extra time for questioning witnesses Volker says he rejected Biden 'conspiracy theory' pushed by Giuliani MORE (D-Calif.) provide answers over his panel's reported contact with a whistleblower who filed a complaint about President TrumpDonald John TrumpDem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens 2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' MORE's dealings with Ukraine.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and 15 other conservative House members wrote a letter to Schiff on Friday blasting the California Democrat for previously stating on MSNBC that his panel had "not spoken directly with the whistleblower."

The lawmakers cited a New York Times report touted by Trump earlier this week that said the anonymous intelligence community official had approached a staffer from the Intelligence Committee before filing their complaint about Trump in August.

The staffer reportedly shared part of the whistleblower's concerns with Schiff, but didn't disclose the person's identity with anyone.

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“The New York Times has reported that the whistleblower who filed a complaint against President Trump spoke to your staff on the House Intelligence Committee prior to filing his complaint with the Intelligence Community Inspector General,” the GOP letter reads.

“But when asked on September 17, 2019, whether you had any contact with the whistleblower, you stated, ‘we have not spoken directly with the whistleblower.’ However, according to the New York Times report, your staff member ‘shared some of what the (whistleblower) conveyed to Mr. Schiff.’ This raises serious questions about the origins of this complaint and your candor in leading this unauthorized impeachment inquiry,” they added.

The Republicans alleged that Schiff’s past remarks from an interview on MSNBC draw into question his handling of the complaint, which the Intelligence Committee publicly released on Sept. 26.

The Washington Post's fact-checker column on Friday gave Schiff's remarks four Pinocchios

“It is your responsibility to immediately provide the American people a full and public accounting of your role as well as your staff's role in the drafting of this complaint that has now formed the basis of an unauthorized impeachment inquiry into President Trump,” Republicans wrote in their letter, requesting Schiff respond by Oct. 11.

The members requested Schiff provide answers to questions including why he “failed to disclose these facts to the American people;” why he said he “had no contact with the whistleblower when you knew that your staff had spoken to the whistleblower prior to filing his complaint;” whether he informed other members including Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul Five things to know about Tuesday's impeachment hearings McConnell hopes Senate impeachment trial 'not too lengthy a process' MORE (D-Calif.) of the staff member's contact with the whistleblower; what advice his staff provided to the individual; and whether his staff played “a role in the drafting of the complaint.”

A Democratic spokesman for the House Intelligence Committee told the Post that Schiff's remarks from the MSNBC interview "should have been more carefully phrased," adding that Schiff “does not know the identity of the whistleblower.” 

“Regarding Chairman Schiff’s comments on ‘Morning Joe,’ in the context, he intended to answer the question of whether the Committee had heard testimony from the whistleblower, which they had not,” the spokesman told the paper in a statement.

“As he said in his answer, the whistleblower was then awaiting instructions from the Acting [Director of National Intelligence] as to how the whistleblower could contact the Committee. Nonetheless, he acknowledges that his statement should have been more carefully phrased to make that distinction clear.”

Schiff has become one of the GOP’s top targets as Republicans seek to defend the president amid an accelerating impeachment inquiry in the House.

Biggs previously introduced a resolution aimed at censuring Schiff for using "parody" when recounting details of Trump's call with the leader of Ukraine in July, which has garnered the support of key Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyFormer Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled Saagar Enjeti blasts alleged Epstein cover-up by media Harris introduces bill to prevent California wildfires MORE (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseChris Wallace: Trump testifying 'would be akin to Prince Andrew testifying about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein' Fox's Neil Cavuto rips into Trump over attacks on Chris Wallace's impeachment coverage This week: Round 2 of House impeachment inquiry hearings MORE (R-La.), who are looking to force a vote on the measure.

Trump also accused Schiff of helping write the complaint during a press conference on Wednesday — an allegation the committee adamantly denies.