GOP zeroes in on Schiff

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Schiff offers bill to make domestic terrorism a federal crime New intel chief inherits host of challenges MORE (D-Calif.) has become a prime target for Republicans following the conclusion of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report MORE’s investigation.

GOP calls for him to resign reached a fever pitch Thursday, with President TrumpDonald John TrumpO'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Objections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated MORE saying he should be forced to leave Congress.

That same day Schiff faced blowback from Republicans on the Intelligence Committee, where he is pursuing a sprawling inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump’s finances.

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At the start of a committee hearing, Rep. Mike ConawayKenneth (Mike) Michael ConawayTexas faces turbulent political moment Democratic Party official: Texas is 'biggest battleground state in the country' Another Texas congressman planning to retire MORE (R-Texas) brandished a letter signed by all nine GOP members of the panel calling for Schiff’s resignation and accusing him of promoting a "demonstrably false" narrative that harms the panels’ integrity.

Conaway and other Republicans have seized on Schiff’s public pronouncements of “collusion” between Trump’s inner circle and the Russian government. Mueller ultimately determined the evidence did not establish that the campaign and Moscow coordinated or conspired to interfere in the 2016 election, according to a summary of Mueller’s conclusions released by Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrAttorney General Barr's license to kill Medical examiner confirms Epstein death by suicide Justice Dept. says Mueller report has been downloaded 800 million times MORE.

“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 at Thursday’s hearing.

Schiff has doubled down since the summary release of Mueller’s core findings, telling CNN on Monday that there is evidence of collusion “in plain sight.”

Mueller’s failure to find evidence to charge a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians, Schiff argues, is vastly different than contacts that raise profound national security concerns.

Schiff on Thursday pointed to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between members of the Trump campaign and a Kremlin-linked lawyer, as well as former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s talks with the Russian ambassador about sanctions on Moscow.

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“You might think that’s OK. You might say that’s just what you need to do to win,” Schiff told his Republican colleagues, with his voice growing louder as he went on. “But I don’t think it’s OK. I think it’s immoral, I think it’s unethical, I think it’s unpatriotic, and yes, I think it’s corrupt and evidence of collusion.”

“But I don’t think that conduct — criminal or not — is OK. And the day we do, the day we think that’s OK, is the day we will look back and say that is the day that America lost its way,” he added.

Schiff has long drawn ire from Trump, particularly in the wake of the 2018 midterm elections after which the California lawmaker and other House Democrats signaled they would use their forthcoming powers in the majority to launch aggressive probes into the president and his administration.

The GOP attacks acquired a new fervency following the release of Barr’s four-page letter to Congress on Sunday.

Republicans have taken the attorney general’s summary to mean Mueller found no evidence at all of collusion and have lambasted Schiff for his past comments.

Thursday’s proceedings were reminiscent of similar partisan breakdowns on the panel, like when Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesJuan Williams: Trump, his allies and the betrayal of America Trump expected to nominate Texas GOP lawmaker to replace Dan Coats: report House Republicans claim victory after Mueller hearings MORE (R-Calif.), a fervent Trump ally, served as chairman and presided over the GOP-led Russia investigation in the previous Congress.

Thursday’s political melee suggests it will be difficult for the committee to achieve a sense of bipartisanship anytime soon.

Democrats have jumped to Schiff’s defense in the face of these attacks, pointing out Nunes’s host of controversies while chairman.

“I'm so proud of the work of Chairman Adam Schiff, in stark contrast to the irresponsible, almost criminal behavior of the previous chair of the committee,” Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiObjections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated Latest pro-democracy rally draws tens of thousands in Hong Kong Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' MORE (D-Calif.) said at a press conference Thursday.

Nunes said in April 2017 that a whistleblower had provided him with evidence that Obama administration officials improperly unmasked members of Trump's transition team. That information later turned out to have been provided to him by officials in the Trump White House.

Schiff argues that Nunes began running interference for the White House after former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyBarr predicts progressive prosecutors will lead to 'more crime, more victims' James Comey shows our criminal justice system works as intended Trump says he's 'very strongly' considering commuting Rod Blagojevich's sentence MORE testified before Congress last year about the launch of the FBI counterintelligence probe, prompting calls from Schiff and Pelosi for Nunes to remove himself from his committee’s Russia probe.

Nunes eventually stepped aside after an ethics investigation began to look into his handling of the probe, but he never formally recused himself from the probe. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

“The Republicans can celebrate that President Trump’s activities didn’t cross the line of criminal conspiracy and that it’s unclear that he obstructed justice. Yay,” Rep. Jim HimesJames (Jim) Andres HimesRising star Ratcliffe faces battle to become Trump's intel chief Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Live coverage: Mueller testifies before Congress MORE (D-Conn.) told The Hill.

“But the people who brought you 10 Benghazi investigations and who continue to fetishize Uranium One and the Clinton email server have no standing to criticize Adam Schiff or anyone else doing real oversight,” he added.

The united front Republicans have formed in their attacks on Schiff is the latest sign that the Intelligence Committee is being defined by deep partisan divisions.

Committee sources have noted that bipartisan relations began to sour after Trump’s election and the start of the Russia probe. Before that, they note, lawmakers were able to conduct work largely on a bipartisan basis and without intense public scrutiny.

Republicans argue Schiff changed all that after Trump won, marking a turning point for Democrats who viewed the new president as a threat to the legislative accomplishments of the Obama era and a wrecking ball to any left-leaning policy.

Democrats, meanwhile, say Nunes took a partisan turn after Trump brought him under his wing during the campaign. Nunes went on to join Trump’s transition team.

The Intelligence Committee feud is a microcosm of a larger battle brewing in Congress over Mueller’s findings, which have left Republicans celebrating and Democrats scrambling.

Democrats are now pushing for the release of Mueller’s full report, which runs in excess of 300 pages, saying they will withhold judgment until they see the document.

They have also taken issue with Barr’s decision that there was “not sufficient” evidence to accuse Trump of obstructing justice, despite Mueller not drawing a conclusion either way.

House committee leaders have set an April 2 deadline for Barr to release Mueller’s report and underlying evidence to Congress in full, a deadline the Justice Department is almost certain to miss.