House Freedom Caucus members demanded Wednesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi oust Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat and intelligence committee chairman, from leading the impeachment investigation.
In a letter, 19 Caucus members, including new Chairman Andy Biggs, said Mr. Schiff cannot be trusted to lead the investigation because of his interactions with the person who filed a whistleblower complaint before the complaint over President Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president was filed.
“His interactions with the whistleblower make him a potential fact witness and his actions thus far have demonstrated that he is not qualified for this serious responsibility,” they wrote.
The New York Times reported the whistleblower — who accused the president of trying to pressure Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter — first approached an intelligence committee staffer who relayed some “vague” information along to Mr. Schiff.
The committee aide then directed the whistleblower, per standard protocol, to Michael Atkinson, the inspector-general for the intelligence community.
Mr. Schiff said last month his team has not spoken to the whistleblower.
“We have not spoken directly with the whistleblower,” he told MSNBC last month. “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 how he is supposed to communicate with Congress, and so the risk to the whistleblower is retaliation.”
But media reports surfaced this week contradict that account. The New York Times and others reported the whistleblower had reached out to a House Intelligence Committee aide before filing the complaint.
Mr. Biggs said the Ukraine allegations are just the latest “fairy tale” Mr. Schiff is using to try to impeach the president.
“Mr. Schiff is hardly an unbiased arbiter of this unauthorized impeachment process, and we call for his immediate recusal,” he said.
In the letter, the Republicans argued Mr. Schiff should be questioned himself regarding his interactions with the whistleblower.
“The public knows little else about Chairman Schiff’s dealing with the whistleblower because Chairman Schiff has failed to disclose the interaction,” they wrote.
They also argued that Democrats demanded Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican and the previous head of the intelligence panel, recuse himself from the Russia investigation because of his private meetings with a source.
Last week, Mr. Schiff accused Republicans of merely trying to protect the president.
“Republicans continued the president’s strategy of deflection by making the absurd claim that because a whistleblower contacted the committee seeking guidance, the committee cannot conduct an investigation into the complaint,” Mr. Schiff said.
“If that were true, no whistleblower could contact Congress and no committee could conduct an investigation,” he continued.
Mrs. Pelosi, however, has stood by her chairman.
“What the Republicans fear most is the truth. To avoid the facts they stage confusion, undermine the Constitution and attack the person the President fears most, Adam Schiff,” she tweeted.
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