‘An orchestrated farce': House Intel Republicans accuse Schiff of concealing info about whistleblower – Washington Examiner

Top House Intelligence Committee Republicans accused Chairman Adam Schiff of withholding information from the panel about a whistleblower complaint concerning President Trump before it became public.

Responding to a report that revealed Schiff had earlier knowledge of the complaint from a CIA officer than previously known, California Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking member, called the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry a politically motivated attack on the president.

“We learn from the press today that Chm Schiff had prior knowledge and involvement in the WB complaint. He withheld this info from the American people and even from the Intel Cmte. In light of this news, it’s hard to view impeachment as anything aside from an orchestrated farce,” Nunes tweeted.

Asked if Schiff concealed information about the whisteblower from GOP members of the panel, Rep. John Ratcliffe, a Republican from Texas who was briefly Trump’s pick to be his director of national intelligence, told the Washington Examiner that he too was not made aware of this official’s overtures to the committee.

“I was never made aware that Chairman Schiff was aware of this whistleblower’s concerns before a complaint was ever filed, much less that own his Intel staff advised the whistleblower on how to proceed,” Ratcliffe said. “For Chairman Schiff to then feign outrage and allege a White House ‘cover-up’ to keep Congress from knowing about the whistleblower complaint that he helped to initiate is beyond dishonest.”

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, another GOP member of the committee, called on Schiff to immediately step down as chairman.

According to the report on Wednesday, a colleague of the whistleblower first went to the agency’s top lawyer to convey accusations that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden, a political rival.

Concerned his allegations would be ignored, the whistleblower then approached a House Intelligence Committee aide with vague details of what would appear in the complaint. The aide then shared some of what the whistleblower said to Schiff but did not divulge the identity of the CIA officer, the report said.

Asked to react to the story during a press conference, Trump called it a “scam” and accused Schiff of helping the whistleblower write his or her complaint.

A lawyer for the whistleblower strongly rejected Trump’s allegation. “There was no contact between the legal team and Congress until nearly a month after the whistleblower complaint was submitted to the Intelligence Community’s Inspector General,” Mark Zaid said. “I can unequivocally state that neither any member of the legal team nor the whistleblower has ever met or spoken with Congressman Schiff about this matter.”

Schiff’s team insisted both the intelligence panel and the whistleblower followed proper procedure and that the whistleblower was advised to find a lawyer and file an official complaint. “Like other whistleblowers have done before and since under Republican- and Democratic-controlled committees, the whistleblower contacted the committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the intelligence community,” Schiff’s spokesman Patrick Boland said. “At no point did the committee review or receive the complaint in advance.”

Spokespeople for Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Vice Chairman Mark Warner also stressed that it would be standard procedure for an intelligence committee to advise a potential whistleblower to hire a legal representation and file a complaint with an agency or intelligence community inspector general.

Bradley Moss, who is a partner at Zaid’s firm, told the Washington Examiner in a brief message that “sure” it would have been appropriate for Schiff to advise Nunes on what he had learned but added it was “not legally required.”

What exactly Schiff knew and when he knew it remains an open question. Schiff’s spokesman did not return the Washington Examiner‘s request for comment in response to the Republican claims that he hid information from them. Yet as the fight for access to the complaint between Congress and the Trump administration unfolded, Schiff repeatedly indicated his office had no contact with the whistleblower.

“We have not spoken directly with the whistleblower. We would like to. But I’m sure the whistleblower has concerns that he has not been advised, as the law requires, by the inspector general or the director of national intelligence just as to how he is to communicate with Congress,” he told MSNBC days after the complaint’s existence went public.

Members of the House Intelligence Committee were reportedly briefed on the whistleblower’s allegations after the complaint was filed. These lawmakers got the “notion” he knew about the complaint itself and the identity of the whistleblower before the complaint was made public, they told Fox News.

Schiff publicly announced the existence of the complaint on Sept. 13, when he subpoenaed acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire for access to it. The California Democrat argued Maguire defied statute by not delivering the complaint, deemed “credible” and “urgent” by the Intelligence Committee inspector general, to the intelligence committees in Congress.

Maguire, who received guidance from the Justice Department and White House, countered that the statute did not apply because the complaint focused on an official that was outside of the intelligence community.

As reports came out revealing details about the complaint and Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Democrats escalated their criticism of Trump with allegations that he sought a foreign country’s help in the 2020 election by leveraging millions of dollars in security aid that was withheld until September.

On Sept. 19, Schiff strongly suggested that he only became aware of the complaint because Inspector General Michael Atkinson reached out after Maguire withheld it. “No complaint was provided and the inspector general felt it necessary to inform the Congress that that complaint was being withheld. In the absence of the actions, and I want to thank the inspector general, in the absence of his actions and coming to our committee, we might not have even known there was a whistleblower complaint alleging an urgent concern,” he said.

When Trump admitted he brought up Biden in the phone call, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initiated an impeachment inquiry. Trump and his allies argue that notes on the phone call, released soon after, show there was no explicit “quid pro quo,” but the release of the complaint raised new concerns about an effort to conceal details of that call and others using a highly secure computer system.

During a Fox News interview on Tuesday, Nunes warned of there being a “Russia hoax 2.0″ because the House intelligence Committee is taking the lead in impeachment proceedings, and he suggested there will be selective leaks leading to new “bombshells” with anonymous sources in the media.

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