Conservative lawmakers demand Schiff's recusal from Trump impeachment inquiry

Conservative lawmakers demand Schiff's recusal from Trump impeachment inquiry
© Getty Images

Several members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus are calling on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSunday Talk Shows: Lawmakers look ahead to House vote on articles of impeachment, Senate trial Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records Democrats approve two articles of impeachment against Trump in Judiciary vote MORE (D-Calif.) to recuse himself in the lower chamber's impeachment inquiry of President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE

In a Wednesday letter to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiUSMCA is nice but no model Anti-impeachment Democrat poised to switch parties Grassley urges White House to help farmers in year-end tax talks MORE (D-Calif.), the GOP lawmakers argued that Schiff isn't suited for a role in the probe due to his panel's correspondence with the whistleblower who filed a complaint concerning President Trump's interactions with Ukraine. That whistleblower communicated with an Intelligence Committee aide before filing the complaint, but the staffer never shared the person's identity with Schiff.

ADVERTISEMENT

The conservative lawmakers assert that the revelations make Schiff "a potential fact witness" and claim that the California congressman's previous actions show he's not up for "this serious responsibility."

Republican Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy GOP lawmakers jockey for positions as managers The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — Sparks fly as House Judiciary debates impeachment articles MORE (N.C.) and Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay Tempers flare at tense Judiciary hearing on impeachment MORE (Texas) were among the signatories. 

“For over two years, Schiff misled the American people with his numerous attempts to manufacture evidence of collusion between Donald Trump and the Russian government. Once that fairytale evaporated, Mr. Schiff quickly moved on to his next hoax: a non-existent quid pro quo between President Trump and the President of Ukraine," the lawmakers said in a joint statement. "This time, just like the Russian hoax, Mr. Schiff has been caught manipulating facts leading to baseless accusations against the President. Mr. Schiff is hardly an unbiased arbiter of this unauthorized impeachment process, and we call for his immediate recusal.”

A spokeswoman for Schiff said the Freedom Caucus resolution is simply an effort by Republicans to distract the public from the president's conduct.

“Schiff is focused on the impeachment inquiry and considers the resolution part of a broader effort coordinated by the White House to distract from the growing body of evidence of the president’s serious misconduct," the spokeswoman said in a statement to The Hill. 

A litany of revelations regarding Trump's effort to encourage Ukraine to investigate 2020 presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenNew York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Graham invites Giuliani to testify about recent Ukraine trip Booker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications MORE led the House to launch a formal impeachment inquiry last month. Several committees, including Schiff's, have called for documents and depositions from numerous Trump administration officials as part of the probe. 

Republicans have repeatedly taken issue with how Schiff has handled the inquiry. Trump last month suggested that the chairman should be arrested for treason for exaggerating parts of the president's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky. 

Several lawmakers also voiced outrage last week after it was revealed that the committee staffer spoke with the whistleblower. 

The congressional aide advised the figure to find a lawyer and to file a formal whistleblower complaint, actions Schiff and other legal experts said are standard procedure.

His arguments did not deter Republicans like  Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, who called on Schiff to step down as chairman for failing to share information related to the whistleblower with the panel. 

Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGraham invites Giuliani to testify about recent Ukraine trip Judge orders State Dept. to search for and provide more Ukraine docs DOJ releases memos backing Trump immunity claims ahead of impeachment vote MORE, said earlier this week that he would not testify before the House Intelligence Committee unless Schiff was removed as its chairman. 

“I wouldn’t testify in front of that committee until there is a vote of Congress and he is removed,” Giuliani said, referring to Schiff. “Let them hold me in contempt. We’ll go to court. We’ll challenge the contempt.”

The comments came the same day that the White House vowed to refuse to cooperate in the impeachment inquiry, which it called an effort to “overturn the results of the 2016 election.”