GOP Rep. Gaetz calls for ethics investigation into Schiff

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzRepublicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally Washington ramps up security ahead of Sept. 18 rally Police brace for Capitol rally defending Jan. 6 mob MORE (R-Fla.), one of President TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE’s strongest allies in the House, filed an ethics complaint against House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOvernight Hillicon Valley — Hacking goes global Schiff calls on Amazon, Facebook to address spread of vaccine misinformation Spotlight turns to GOP's McCarthy in Jan. 6 probe 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 DeutchNew podcast pairs lawmakers with entertainment figures House Ethics panel reviewing Rep. Malinowski's stock trades Senate Intel chair vows 'tough but necessary questions' on Afghanistan collapse MORE (D-Fla.) and ranking member Kenny MarchantKenny Ewell MarchantTexas House Democrat who fled state announces congressional bid Republican Van Duyne wins race for Texas House seat Cook Political Report shifts 8 more House races toward Democrats 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.