GOP Rep. Gaetz calls for ethics investigation into Schiff

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzSchiff told Gaetz to 'absent yourself' in fiery exchange: impeachment transcript Do Republicans understand the Constitution? Ocasio-Cortez: 'Major crime' against Katie Hill will deter other female candidates MORE (R-Fla.), one of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report MORE’s strongest allies in the House, filed an ethics complaint against House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGiuliani pens op-ed slamming 'unprecedented' impeachment inquiry Jim Jordan: Latest allegation of ignoring sexual misconduct is 'ridiculous' Democrats face make-or-break moment on impeachment MORE on Wednesday, arguing the California Democrat has violated at least two House rules while overseeing the impeachment inquiry.  

In a letter sent to House Ethics Committee Chairman Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchOvernight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Bipartisan House members call on Trump to rescind Erdoğan invitation Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows by six members MORE (D-Fla.) and ranking member Kenny MarchantKenny Ewell MarchantGOP Rep. Gaetz calls for ethics investigation into Schiff Walden retirement adds to GOP election woes Overnight Energy: Automakers group sides with Trump in emissions lawsuit | Latest on California wildfires | Walden won't seek reelection | Park Service scraps plan to charge protesters for security MORE (R-Texas), Gaetz cited Schiff’s exaggerated account of the details of President Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a hearing in September and his decision not to allow members who aren't on the three committees overseeing the probe into a closed-door hearing. 

Gaetz said Schiff’s “statement, and his bizarre distortions of the Trump-Zelensky call” violated a clause of the House’s Code of Official Conduct because the behavior did not “reflect creditably on the House,” nor does it follow “the spirit and the letter of the Rules of the House.”

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The Florida Republican also accused Schiff of violating another clause that says “A Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may not be excluded from nonparticipatory attendance at a hearing of a committee or subcommittee [...] unless the House by majority vote authorizes a particular committee or subcommittee, for purposes of a particular series of hearings on a particular article of legislation or on a particular subject of investigation, to close its hearings to Members, Delegates, and the Resident Commissioner by the same procedures specified in this subparagraph for closing hearings to the public.”

“The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence held a hearing on the whistleblower complaint on September 26, 2019. During this hearing, Chairman Schiff gave a wildly-inaccurate and distorted ‘retelling’ of President Trump and President Zelensky's call, grossly misrepresenting the content of the call to the American people, and saying that President Trump's comments were ‘like a classic organized crime shakedown,’” he wrote. 

“It is incumbent on Members of Congress to be accurate and honest to the American people, and Chairman Schiff has been neither,” he said.

Gaetz also accused Schiff of violating a parliamentary precedent that bars members from making "accusations that the president has committed a crime," or alleging “that the president has done something illegal,” adding he believes Schiff’s rhetoric has been in violation of the rules since the special counsel investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Schiff's behavior cannot be construed to be an 'honest mistake,' as it is long-standing and habitual. In a March 2017 interview, Mr. Schiff claimed to have ‘more than circumstantial evidence’ of President Trump and his campaign ‘colluding' with Russia,” he continued.

“As the report from Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has made clear, Mr. Schiff's claim was baseless and untrue; to date, Chairman Schiff has not justified his statement.’” 

Gaetz, who has been one of Schiff’s most vocal critics in the lower chamber, charged that the chairman’s “unprofessional and divisive behavior” has led to conflict within the Intelligence Committee, noting every GOP lawmaker on the panel signed on to a letter calling for his resignation from leading the committee. 

Gaetz went on to note he led a group of GOP lawmakers attempting to storm the secure hearing room in the Capitol basement where committees were conducting hearings last week. He was removed from the closed-door deposition since he does not sit on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, House Intelligence Committee or the House Oversight and Reform Committee. According to the GOP lawmaker, his removal from the joint hearing also violates House rules.

 “While the 116th Congress's ‘Regulations for the Use of Deposition Authority’  state that ‘the chair of the committee noticing the deposition may designate that deposition as part of a joint investigation between committees,’ and that ’Members and designated staff of the committees may attend and ask questions,’ this regulation does not expressly prohibit nonparticipatory attendance from members of other committees.”

Democrats have strongly defended the way they have conducted the impeachment inquiry and rebuffed GOP criticisms. Schiff defended his statement at the September hearing, arguing his comments were made partially in jest. 

The House is slated to vote on Thursday on an impeachment resolution on procedures Democrats argue will bring transparency to the process. Republicans have argued the move does little to change how the process is being carried out and fails to provide them with the tools they feel are necessary for a balanced probe. 

“[In] tomorrow's vote Democrats plan to impose an unprecedented and unwarranted amount of trust and Adam Schiff. Our ethics complaint today points out that he is not worthy of that trust,” Gaetz told The Hill.