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Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow

Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow
© Bonnie Cash

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOvernight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he Hillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats hearing MORE (D-Calif.) said he’s asked the committee’s Republicans for a “reset” in the post-Trump era, but said it may be difficult with Trump’s hold on the party.

“I've been talking to Republican members about trying to reset,” Schiff told Michael Morrell, former acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency, on an episode his podcast "Intelligence Matters" taped at the Hayden Center Thursday. 

“You know, frankly, within the Democratic Caucus, there is continuing anger, among other emotions over the fact that even after the failed insurrection, so many of our Republican colleagues were back on the House floor, trying to overturn the results of the election, and propagating the same falsehoods that that led to that attack on the Capitol,” Schiff said. 

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“Most of the Republicans on the Intelligence Committee are among that group," he added.

Schiff also backed a strictly bipartisan approach as Congress moves forward on a number of investigations into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, saying that lawmakers should model a commission after the one used to investigate the Sept. 11 attacks.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong 15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban It's not 'woketivism,' it's good business MORE (R-Ky.) earlier this week bashed House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWhite House readies for Chauvin verdict House GOP's McClain responds to Pelosi calling her 'that woman' GOP struggles to rein in nativism MORE’s (D-Calif.) plan, which would include more Democrats than Republicans on the panel.

“I do think we need a 9/11-like commission that can be ruthlessly nonpartisan,” Schiff said.

Schiff also said it would be difficult for the intelligence community to rebuild its reputation, blaming the Trump administration for politicizing intelligence, including downplaying the threat of white nationalism and domestic extremism.

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But he warned that distrust would be difficult to combat.

“I'm not sure there's a shortcut to that problem as long as I think Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHouse votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong Former Vice President Walter Mondale dies at age 93 White House readies for Chauvin verdict MORE is on the political scene,” he said, particularly “given the fealty” shown by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyWhite House readies for Chauvin verdict McCarthy to introduce resolution to censure Waters House GOP's McClain responds to Pelosi calling her 'that woman' MORE (R-Calif.) and McConnell, who said Thursday he would back Trump if he’s the 2024 presidential nominee.

On the cybersecurity front, Schiff said he backed a bill from Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerManchin throws support behind union-backed PRO Act New US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations Democrats brace for new 'defund the police' attacks MORE (D-Va.) calling for an airline crash-style review of everything involved with the SolarWinds hack, noting the need to involve review of the private sector in determining how to better respond to such attacks.

“We've been aware of the problem. It's not like it's a surprise, but we haven't obviously done what needed to be done to guard against it,” he said of awareness of the potential to exploit weaknesses within private tech companies. "And we're gonna have to figure out what does this mean in terms of how actively involved the [intelligence community] needs to be in the work of the vendors?”

He also warned of the need to stay focused on Russia, the suspected perpetrator of the attacks, as the U.S increasingly seeks to compete with China.

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“The danger from Russia, which is a declining power, you know, is the danger that you face from a wounded animal that is dangerous because it's wounded and desperate. And Russia very much sees the world in a zero-sum game with the United States,” he said. 

Schiff also said he sees a greater role to be played by the intelligence community in addressing threats like pandemics and climate change, stressing that intelligence agencies need to use their skills to monitor publicly-available information to assess future threats.

He noted public reporting of the crowding of hospitals in Wuhan and the ability of agencies to monitor parking lots from space to help in the early detection of pandemics, particularly when a government may not be transparent about the scale of the problem.

“You can look for the signs of potential health crises and pandemics and … learn of how governments are responding and how a problem may be migrating,” he said.