Intelligence

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

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (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. 

"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 McConnell (R-Ky.) earlier this week bashed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi'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.

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 Trump is on the political scene," he said, particularly "given the fealty" shown by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (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 Warner (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.

"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.

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