The California Democrat once insinuated that a blocked call on Donald Trump Jr.’s cellphone was to tell his father about an upcoming meeting with a Russian lawyer.
It turned out that the call was to a business associate.
The renewed focus on Mr. Schiff’s truth record comes as the Democratic leader, in making the case for impeachment, has put words in the commander in chief’s mouth that President Trump never uttered. A comparison of the congressman’s statements to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report finished in March raises concerns about Mr. Schiff’s credibility.
The Democrat’s narrative amounts to “all these lies,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican.
Mr. Schiff’s most recent allegation had even some normally loyal pundits criticizing him.
At a Sept. 26 nationally televised hearing, Mr. Schiff said Mr. Trump requested that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky fabricate evidence against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden. In other words, Mr. Trump was asking Mr. Zelensky to commit a felony.
Such a request isn’t in the transcript of the July phone call. Challenged by Republicans, Mr. Schiff defended his version of the call as his own personal “parody.”
After two days of taking heat, the California Democrat shifted his defense, tweeting that the unidentified anti-Trump whistleblower “confirmed” the quote. He didn’t explain where. It isn’t in the nine-page complaint against Mr. Trump that the whistleblower, a CIA analyst and Democrat, sent the House and Senate intelligence committees.
Republicans also accuse Mr. Schiff of lying about when he or his staff had contact with the whistleblower. At first, the congressman said there was no contact. Now it turns out that the person consulted with committee Democrats.
“You know what else Adam Schiff has been saying to you and the American public that was not true?” said Rep. Lee M. Zeldin, New York Republican. “That he had no contact with the whistleblower — he’d like to, but he didn’t have any contact. He lied.”
There are other examples of Mr. Schiff’s dubious assertions since early 2017. The trail starts with the infamous dossier.
The Steele dossier
At a March 2017 hearing with FBI Director James B. Comey at the witness table, Mr. Schiff repeatedly cited the discredited Christopher Steele dossier. He gave credence to a list of unverified felony charges against Mr. Trump. The allegations came straight from the Kremlin, creating the irony of Mr. Schiff using Moscow’s election-year allegations against Mr. Trump to investigate the Russians’ own U.S. election meddling.
Since that hearing, Republicans forced the disclosure that it was Mr. Schiff’s party that funded Mr. Steele. None of his 13 separate conspiracy allegations proved true. Mueller found no Trump conspiracy in his report. Mr. Schiff fought efforts to find out who funded the dossier and how the FBI used it to target Mr. Trump.
Secret was no secret
Mr. Schiff said Mr. Steele correctly predicted that energy company Rosneft would sell a 19% stake to a private investor. The charge was aimed at buttressing Mr. Steele’s allegations against Trump volunteer Carter Page.
“Is it a coincidence that the Russian gas company, Rosneft, sold a 19% share after former British intelligence officer Mr. Steele was told by Russian sources that Carter Page was offered fees on a deal of just that size?” Mr. Schiff said at the hearing.
In fact, an internet search shows the news media reported on the 19% stake weeks before Mr. Steele wrote that particular dossier memo.
Misleading a judge
In 2018, Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican and then-chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a report on how the FBI used the dossier to persuade a judge to approve a year’s worth of wiretaps on Mr. Page. Mr. Schiff issued a countermemo that the established press accepted, labeling Mr. Nunes’ paper “debunked.”
But Mr. Schiff was wrong on a number of points.
He wrote that Bruce Ohr, then a top Justice Department official, didn’t go to the FBI with dossier dirt until November 2016, so it would be impossible for him to have influence on the wiretaps application in October.
In fact, Mr. Ohr began feeding dossier information in August 2016, starting with Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and reaching deep inside the Justice Department. He talked directly to agent Peter Strzok, the man heading the Trump investigation who held great animus toward the president.
Mr. Schiff said the Nunes report “mischaracterizes Bruce Ohr’s role, overstates the significance of his interactions with Steele.”
In fact, Mr. Ohr, as associate deputy attorney general, the No. 4 position, played a critical role in repeatedly ferrying Mr. Steele’s allegations to the Obama administration and continued talking to him well into 2017. Mr. Ohr’s wife worked at Fusion GPS, Mr. Steele’s handler. Mr. Ohr provided the FBI all of her anti-Trump research as well.
Axes to grind
Mr. Schiff said the FBI notified judges of the dossier’s partisan nature by writing, in a footnote in the application, that the FBI “speculates” that it came from a person who wanted to harm Mr. Trump.
In fact, the FBI didn’t confirm this, according to the Mueller report.
“The investigation did not establish that Page coordinated with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 election,” the report said.
In November 2016, an internal FBI report graded the dossier as only “minimally corroborated.”
In fact, when Mr. Nunes eventually obtained a declassified wiretap application, it clearly showed the article was meant as corroboration. The FBI stated that the Yahoo story didn’t come from the same source — Mr. Steele — because the former British spy told agents he didn’t talk to reporters. Mr. Steele had spoken to the Yahoo reporter who based the story on him. There was no corroboration for the judge.
Leaks by the number
Leak 1:Donald Trump Jr. testified to the House intelligence committee on Dec. 7, 2017. Almost immediately, CNN reported that he received a heads-up from WikiLeaks that it planned to release more stolen Democratic Party emails. Thus, evidence of collusion.
The story was wrong. The email Mr. Trump Jr. provided the committee showed the unsolicited WikiLeaks message came the day after the release. The CNN story stayed uncorrected for hours.
Leak 2: Democrats leaked misleading Facebook numbers for Russian-bought ads, showing they supposedly targeted Michigan, Wisconsin and other swing states.
Republicans released numbers that showed deep-blue Maryland displayed more Russia ads than Wisconsin, 262 to 55.
Leak 3: Mr. Nunes, then the committee chairman, worked closely with the White House in writing his wiretap-dossier abuse memo. Mr. Nunes said he didn’t and Democrats presented no evidence that he did.
Leak 4: Democrats leaked that White House communications director Hope Hicks in testimony admitted to telling “white lies.” It turned out her example was that she would tell a caller Mr. Trump wasn’t in when he was.
Mr. Schiff, a regular guest on CNN and MSNBC, suggested pre-Mueller report that he had seen evidence of a conspiracy or that certain known contacts between a Trump associate and a Russian amounted to election collusion.
In March 2017, the month he read from the dossier, Mr. Schiff said on MSNBC, “I don’t want to go into specifics, but I will say that there is evidence that is not circumstantial and is very much worthy of investigation, so that is what we ought to do.”
The following December on CNN, he said, “We have all of these facts in chronology, you’d have to believe that these were all isolated incidents, not connected to each other — just doesn’t make rational sense. … We do know this: The Russians offered help, the campaign accepted help, the Russians gave help and the president made full use of that help. That is pretty damning, whether it is proof beyond a reasonable doubt of conspiracy or not.”
One of Mr. Schiff’s major pieces of evidence is the July 2017 disclosure that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. The meeting lasted about 20 minutes, and the lawyer didn’t relay any dirt. The meeting had nothing to do with Russian hacking or social media information warfare.
In his overall conclusion, the Mueller report said, “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
In April 2018, Mr. Nunes and the Republican majority issued a report saying there was no election conspiracy. Mr. Schiff issued a 99-page rebuttal.
One section focused on George Papadopoulos, the Trump adviser who met Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor active in Western national security circles. In London, Mr. Mifsud told Mr. Papadopoulos on April 26, 2016, that he heard Moscow owned “thousands” of Clinton emails.
Mr. Schiff said Mr. Nunes never sought records to “determine whom on the campaign he would have reported this overture to.”
“You cannot find what you did not seek,” the Schiff report said.
In fact, the Mueller report a year later found that Mr. Papadopoulos never acted on what Mr. Mifsud said, nor told anyone on the campaign. He communicated with a Russian tied to a think tank about having candidate Trump visit Moscow. No visit happened.
Mr. Mueller examined all of Mr. Papadopoulos’ actions in Europe. There was no evidence he was involved in coordinating hacking or social media.
The Schiff report implies that the National Rifle Associate took millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions from Russia. This is a theory pushed repeatedly by Fusion GPS, Mrs. Clinton’s opposition research firm that handled Mr. Steele and circulated his bogus dossier.
There was no evidence of this in the Mueller report. Nor have there been any confirmed reports that the FBI is investigating the NRA.
Resign and censure
News in March that the Mueller investigation found no Trump-Russia election conspiracy prompted House intelligence committee Republicans to write a letter demanding that Mr. Schiff resign the chairmanship.
“The findings of the special counsel conclusively refute your past and present assertions and have exposed you as having abused your position to knowingly promote false information, having damaged the integrity for his committee, and undermine faith in U.S. government institutions,” the Republicans wrote.
After Mr. Schiff’s “parody” routine, Rep. Andy Biggs, Arizona Republican, offered a resolution calling on the House to censure him.
Mr. Schiff vigorously defended himself at a March 28 hearing.
He mentioned: Don Jr.’s willingness to meet with the Russian attorney; Paul Manafort, former campaign chairman, providing polling data to his longtime employee in Ukraine who the FBI says is tied to Russian intelligence; adviser Roger Stone, who had a brief message exchange with a person who turned out to be a Russian intelligence officer.
“My colleagues may think it’s OK that the Russians offered dirt on the Democratic candidate for president as part of what was described as the Russian government’s effort to help the Trump campaign,” he said. “You might think that’s OK. My colleagues might think it’s OK, when that was offered to the son of the president who had a pivotal role in the campaign, that the president’s son did not call the FBI. He did not adamantly refuse that foreign help. No, instead that son said that he would love the help of the Russians.”
Said Mr. Schiff, “I have always said that the question of whether this amounts to proof of conspiracy was another matter, whether the special counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the proof of that crime would be up to the special counsel and I would accept his decision, and I do. He’s a good and honorable man, and he is a good prosecutor. But I do not think that conduct, criminal or not, it’s OK. And the day we do think that’s OK is the day we will look back and say that is the day America lost its way.”
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