Schiff angrily pushes back against GOP calls for him to step down

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again.' Trump: Nevada a 'great win' for Sanders Trump's Intel moves spark Democratic fury MORE (D-Calif.) aggressively pushed back at calls for him to step down from President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again.' Poll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden More than 6 in 10 expect Trump to be reelected: poll MORE and other Republicans, defending his past comments by lighting into the president and his family and campaign over its contacts with Russia.

Schiff at the opening of an Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia listed contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia that he described as being "not OK," signaling he'll fiercely defend himself from the calls to end his chairmanship.

ADVERTISEMENT

"My colleagues may think it is OK the president's son was offered dirt as part of an effort to help Trump," Schiff said in his statement, pausing at times for dramatic effect.

"You might think it is OK. I don’t," Schiff added, his voice rising as he went on.

Schiff spoke after one of the panel's senior members, in a striking display, called for him to step down.

Rep. Mike ConawayKenneth (Mike) Michael ConawayLive coverage: Democrats, Republicans seek to win PR battle in final House impeachment hearing Laughter erupts at hearing after Democrat fires back: Trump 'has 5 Pinocchios on a daily basis' Live coverage: Schiff closes with speech highlighting claims of Trump's corruption MORE (R-Texas) said Schiff had lost confidence in the panel by promoting a "demonstrably false" narrative that has damaged the "integrity" of their panel.

“The findings of the special counsel conclusively refute your past and present assertions and have exposed you as abused your position to knowingly promote false information,” Conaway said.

Conaway also introduced a letter signed by all nine Republican members of the committee calling for Shiff's resignation. Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesJudge dismisses Nunes' lawsuit against Fusion GPS Trump's new intel chief makes immediate changes, ousts top official Overnight Energy: EPA moves to limit financial pressure on 'forever chemical' manufacturers | California sues Trump over water order| Buttigieg expands on climate plan MORE (Calif.), the top Republican on the panel who has had a fraught relationship with Schiff, was among the signatories.

Schiff, when he was the panel's ranking member, called on Nunes to step aside in 2017 amid questions about Nunes's communications with the White House.

“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,” Conaway said.

The explosive moment came days after Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrBill Barr is trying his best to be Trump's Roy Cohn Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter split on Bloomberg video | Sanders briefed on Russian efforts to help campaign | Barr to meet with Republicans ahead of surveillance fight Sanders says he was briefed on Russian effort to help campaign MORE notified Congress that Mueller’s investigation did not find evidence to conclude that members of the Trump campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.

Trump and his GOP allies have seized on the revelation, claiming it exonerates Trump and attacking Schiff and other Democrats who described what they viewed as evidence of collusion over the course of Mueller’s 22-month probe.

The president earlier in a tweet on Thursday called for Schiff's resignation from Congress. 

“Congressman Adam Schiff, who spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking, should be forced to resign from Congress!” Trump said.

Schiff has said he plans to move forward with the panel’s sprawling investigation into Trump’s links to Russia, financial and otherwise, and allegations the president could be potentially “compromised” by the Kremlin or another foreign power.  

Thursday’s hearing was another dramatic flashpoint for the House Intelligence Committee, a panel that has been well-known for its partisan divisions that exploded into plain sight during the committee’s first GOP-led probe into Russian election interference.

Republicans abruptly ended that probe in spring of last year, despite accusations from Democrats that they did so prematurely.

After Schiff claimed the committee gavel following the November midterm elections, he revived and expanded the committee’s investigation into Russian meddling.  

Other Republican members of the committee interrupted Thursday’s hearing, which was supposed to be focused on expert testimony on Russian President Vladimir Putin, to voice their dissatisfaction with Schiff.

Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) at one point likened Schiff to Joseph McCarthy, the Wisconsin senator who gained notoriety for promoting investigations into alleged communists in the U.S. government that made up part of the Red Scare in the 1940s and 1950s.  

“Mr. Chairman, I am asking for your resignation today because I believe you are advancing Putin’s work. I believe the chair has abused his power and these processes and he’s misrepresenting the information we’ve received in classified sessions,” Turner said.

Democrats, meanwhile, came to Schiff’s defense, Democratic Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyHillicon Valley: Officials worry about Nevada caucus technology after Iowa | Pelosi joins pressure campaign on Huawei | Workers at Kickstarter vote to unionize | Bezos launches B climate initiative The Hill's Campaign Report: Bloomberg to face off with rivals at Nevada debate Tech for Nevada caucuses under scrutiny after Iowa debacle MORE (Ill.) calling the GOP attack an "ambush" and "cheap-shot” in remarks to The Hill during a brief break for votes.