GOP zeroes in on Schiff

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump knocks Mueller after deal struck for him to testify Mueller to give extended testimony after appearance postponed Mueller testimony likely to be delayed for one week MORE (D-Calif.) has become a prime target for Republicans following the conclusion of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE’s investigation.

GOP calls for him to resign reached a fever pitch Thursday, with President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet LA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' Trump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates 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 ConawayLobbying world On The Money: House chairman issues subpoenas for Trump's tax returns | Trump touts trade talks as China, US fail to reach deal | Five things to know about Trump's trade war with China | GOP offers support for Trump on tariffs GOP offers support for Trump on China tariffs 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 BarrACLU says it will 'sue swiftly' over Trump administration ending asylum protections Trump to end asylum protections for most Central American migrants at US-Mexico border This week: House Dems voting to hold Barr, Ross in contempt 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 NunesDemocrats' opposition research got exposed — this time, not by the Russians GOP consultant sued by Nunes asks for help paying legal costs Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data 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 PelosiNYT's Friedman repeatedly says 's---hole' in tirade against Trump on CNN GOP lawmaker: Trump's tweets 'obviously not racist' On the USMCA, Pelosi can't take yes for an answer 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 ComeyHannity invites Ocasio-Cortez to join prime-time show for full hour The Hill's 12:30 Report: Acosta under fire over Epstein plea deal White House repeatedly blocks ex-aide from answering Judiciary panel questions 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 HimesForeign-born lawmaker: Trump's not going to tell me to 'go back to my country' Battle lines drawn for Mueller testimony Pro-impeachment Democrats say Mueller testimony could be 'turning point' 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.