By Steve Baldwin
Published first in The American Spectator
In the course of the Trump wiretapping brouhaha and the Trump/Russian conspiracy claim, the face of one Congressman, Adam Schiff, seems to appear everywhere in the news. As the lead Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee, he has managed to attract a huge media following, who, not surprisingly, hang on every word he utters while never questioning any of his pronouncements.
I happen to know him a little. When I served in the California State Assembly in the late ’90s, Schiff was a State Senator. He appeared to me as a sober-minded man with a serious demeanor and as a former federal prosecutor, he gave the impression he was a moderate Democrat perhaps willing to cross over to support Republican bills.
The minority Republicans needed Democrat votes to get anything passed so we were hopeful he would break with the loons who control the California legislature. Indeed, he would sometimes act like he sympathized with our positions, but in the end, that turned out to be a charade. When the vote came, he always sided with the hard left. I always thought of him as “shifty” and thus a few us privately referred to him as “Shifty Schiff.”
Indeed, Schiff earned perfect or near perfect scores by California’s gaggle of hard-left groups and was part of a generation of socialist/progressive leaders in California who did away with the few remaining obstacles to California becoming the nation’s premier hard-left “utopia.” Under their leadership, California became a progressive paradise as they passed numerous bills granting benefits for illegal aliens, funding elaborate global warming schemes, expanding the power of labor unions, and passing all kinds of incredibly onerous regulations that made it nearly impossible for the private sector to survive.
But in the California fantasyland, one is rewarding for wrecking a state and in 2001, Schiff won a Congressional seat and today represents perhaps the looniest constituents in America’s most out of touch state: Hollywood and surrounding areas. As a congressman, Schiff continued to score high with all the hard-left groups, receiving perfect or near perfect scores from groups that track votes related to unions, guns, abortion, fiscal issues, tax and spend issues, and so on. Interestingly, Schiff consistently votes perfect with Planned Parenthood — even to preserve late term abortions — while also voting for every single animal rights bill, an intellectual pretzel that’s difficult to comprehend (“Kill human babies, save the mice!”).
His latest ratings with Freedom Works, Club for Growth, and the ACU are 0, something difficult to achieve unless you really believe every single government spending, tax, and regulatory bill is swell and you have absolutely no understanding of the free market system. Indeed, in the last ratings by Club for Growth, on purely pork-oriented votes Schiff voted 68 out of 68 times in support of this shady form of crony capitalism. There is little doubt that despite his contrived moderate image, Schiff is a diehard leftist who I’m sure would be quite comfortable as an administrator in, say, Cuba’s byzantine socialist government.
But it really was not until the 2014 hearing by the House Select Committee on Benghazi that Schiff came into his own as one of the Democrats’ leading attack dogs and cover-up artists. Due to the failure of previous House committees (including the House Intelligence Committee Schiff sat on) to pierce the cover-up erected by Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, Speaker Boehner created a House Select Committee in 2014 to re-investigate the Benghazi debacle.
Four Americans were killed by Islamic terrorists as they defended an obscure diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and the evidence was overwhelming that the Obama/Clinton regime lied about it in order to protect Hillary’s reputation as she prepared to run for president. Clinton’s team claimed falsely the attack was due to a reaction to an “anti-Muslim” video, and Schiff defended that lie. Indeed, Schiff was so worried about the findings of this new committee that he opposed its creation, claiming it was a “colossal waste of time” and a “waste of taxpayer resources,” perhaps the only time in Schiff’s career he ever showed concern for the taxpayer. Nevertheless, Schiff accepted an appointment to the committee. We now know why.
Schiff’s role on this committee was clearly to deflect from the real issues and to protect Hillary Clinton at all costs. He stated that “there was nothing more the military could have done that night that would have saved their lives, nor was there any political interference with rescue efforts.” But we know Schiff was hiding the truth because a number of Special Forces operators testified that a rescue could have been undertaken but were told not to do so. Moreover, overwhelming evidence was presented that the State Department ignored requests for additional security improvements to the compound but, Schiff, again, loudly disputed this.
The most shameful action by Schiff was his attack upon the testimony of three CIA contractors who confirmed there was indeed a “stand-down” order given three times that delayed the rescuers. Indeed, the rescuers had to defy an order to come to the aid of those under attack. Had the rescuers been allowed to depart earlier, four Americans may be alive today. Nevertheless, Shifty went on the offense, claiming the CIA contractors were lying in order to sell a book three of them had authored. One of the contractors, Kris Paronto, responded, “it’s difficult for me because you’re calling a Ranger, a SEAL and three Marines liars.” But that’s Schiff’s MO; protect Hillary Clinton at all costs, even if it meant defaming Americans who put their lives on the line. At this point, Schiff probably assumed Hillary was going to be the next president and rumors were rife he was hoping to play a role in her administration. In any case, the Benghazi hearings established Schiff’s reputation as a “Party first, America last” ideologue.
After Schiff’s shameful behavior with the Benghazi hearings, his star began to rise with the left and he pandered to them with a series of strange legislative initiatives. He went on a crusade to persuade the Census Bureau to collect data about “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender” individuals, which, conservatives argue, could then be used by a future leftist government to set the stage for legislation creating job or university admission quotas for LGBT people. But do we really want the government to have on file the sexual inclinations of all Americans?
He introduced a bill called the “Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act” that made gun “manufacturers, sellers and interest groups” liable for gun violence. Yes, you read it right. In Schiff’s bizarre far left universe, victims of gun shootings should have the right to sue the gun seller, the manufacturer, and, for good measure, any group that promotes gun rights like the NRA. Not only was the measure insane and unconstitutional, but the precedent it set would have been horrendous. What about knife manufacturers? Should we go after baseball bat manufacturers because bats have been used by criminals?
Schiff fancies himself as an intelligence expert even though he has no background in intelligence whatsoever and appears to tote the leftwing line — “Terrorism, what terrorism?” — on all things terror-related. In 2015, when Islamic terrorists attacked an after work Christmas party in San Bernardino — a few miles from his district — killing 14 and injuring 22, it was obvious from the beginning who was responsible: Islamic terrorists. The Islamic couple, both of Pakistani descent, had used bomb technology commonly used by al Qaeda and had spent time in Saudi Arabia, most likely undergoing training.
Nevertheless, Schiff blindly followed Obama’s lead and sent out a statement that never used the word “Islam” and suggested the mass murder could be “workplace violence.” While the bodies were still warm, Schiff, like Obama, called for gun control, announcing that, “There are many reasonable proposals in Congress that would, without question, reduce gun violence and mass shootings in America.” What? California has all kinds of gun control laws and so does all of Europe, but that hasn’t stopped or even slowed down Islamic terrorism. Note to Schiff: Terrorists don’t obey gun control laws.
Indeed, when it comes to Islamic terrorism, Schiff’s actions give the impression he does not consider it a serious problem, which is a bit bizarre considering he was raised Jewish. When Obama was preparing to sign a treaty with Iran that gave the Mullahs billions of dollars and allows them to eventually produce nuclear weapons, Schiff, in typical fashion, publicly criticized the deal but then announced he would support it. Iran is the world’s leading funder of Islamic terrorism that often targets Israel and Jews, a fact that didn’t seem to deter Schiff from supporting this agreement. Clearly, he decided it was more important to support the Obama agenda, even at the expense of his own faith.
After Trump won in November, the organized left had to concoct a reason for its embarrassing defeat. Its donors were hopping mad, its grassroots were demanding action and, most importantly, they needed to create a reason to convince voters that Trump’s election was illegitimate and to win voters back in 2020. The left’s leadership came up with the Trump-Russia collusion conspiracy theory, a strange one given the left’s affinity for Russia since 1917. But it was perfect for Schiff, so when the Intelligence Committee announced hearings, he was ready to roll. What better way to give credibility to a phony narrative than to hold hearings and drag it on for months.
Indeed, for most of the last two months, Schiff seemed to control the media coverage of the committee, spinning an irresponsible conspiracy theory about Trump colluding with Russia to alter the election results, even though the FBI, DNI, and NSA had all testified they had not found a shred of evidence to back up that allegation.
Nevertheless, Schiff continued to repeat these phony allegations. He smeared one-time Trump advisor Roger Stone because Stone tweeted a hacker who claimed to have hacked the DNC five weeks earlier. Stone had nothing to do with the hack and was just collecting info for a blog he writes. Nor does Stone have anything to do with any “Russian collusion.” Another person key to Schiff’s conspiracy theory is Carter Page, a guy that consulted with a Russian energy company years before Trump’s campaign. But Trump never met him and Page never advised Trump, but because he was listed on an early Trump campaign piece as an “advisory committee” member, Schiff declared he was part of this evil cabal.
Then, of course, there’s Paul Manafort, the former Trump advisor who did business in Russia years before Trump ran for office, but like the others, has never spoken with the Russians about the 2016 elections. But that doesn’t stop Schiff from making him one of the key conspirators. In the private sector, charlatans like Schiff would have been sued for libel months ago; The only reason why he’s not being sued is the immunity the law grants congressmen, allowing them to be as irresponsible as they want.
Incoming Trump official General Michael Flynn was another Schiff target. It is not unusual for incoming officials to speak with leaders of other countries but what landed Flynn in trouble was not his conversation with the Russian Ambassador; it was not fully disclosing the conversation with Vice President Pence. In any case, Flynn’s conversation with the Ambassador was, according to the Washington Post, about U.S. sanctions on Russia and had nothing to do influencing the election, but nevertheless Schiff made Flynn part of the grand conspiracy.
But it’s worse than this. Schiff’s public statements about the Flynn incident indicate a lack of interest about the far more important issues surrounding Flynn, such as who authorized his wiretapping and who illegally disseminated the transcript? Those are issues one would think the Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman would want to find answers to, but then again, that could implicate Obama’s people and get in the way of pursuing the Trump/Russian conspiracy theory. Schiff’s Intelligence Committee priorities are not just dishonest; they may be endangering American security.
Lastly, Schiff attacked one of the most honest men in office today, Senator Jeff Sessions, because as part of his senatorial duties he met with the Russian ambassador just as he did with 25 other ambassadors. Incredibly, Schiff issued a statement calling for his resignation, claiming Sessions did not tell the truth because Sessions said “No” when asked during an Intelligence Committee hearing as to whether he, acting on behalf of the Trump campaign, ever met with the Russians. Any reasonable observer of the hearing would conclude the question was NOT directed toward Session’s diplomatic duties as Senator. Nevertheless, Schiff claimed that Sessions “deliberately misled the Senate,” implying that he committed perjury. This is outrageous. As an attorney, Schiff would know that Session’s testimony came nowhere near the definition of perjury.
When the media reported on a “dossier” that supposedly contained damaging information on Trump assembled by a former British spy named Christopher Steele, Schiff went into overdrive and automatically assumed it was an accurate report before it was even vetted by intelligence experts. James Clapper, Obama’s top intelligence official, stated, “Much of it could not be corroborated.” And Obama’s CIA Director, Michael Morell, noted the report’s shady origins when he disclosed that Steele paid the report’s sources money and never spoke directly to them. Morel also said, “There is smoke but there is no fire, at all.” Indeed, investigators reviewing the report found that very few of the names, dates, and places mentioned corresponded to real people or real events. It even claimed that Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, traveled to Prague for secret meetings with the Russians, but Cohen has never visited Prague. Indeed, even famed Watergate reporter Bob Woodward called the document “garbage.”
Indeed, the report could very well be a hoax, but even after Obama’s two highest ranking intelligence officials refuse to give it any credibility, Schiff continued to quote the report in committee hearings as if it were a legit document.
Schiff’s tactic of connecting unrelated dots is reprehensible. He is using the power of government to damage the reputation of men he knows nothing about. His flimsy conspiracy theory is all about advancing a political agenda to deligitimitize Trump’s presidency. He ought to be ashamed of his “Party first, America last” approach. Aside from the damage such irresponsible allegations are doing to individuals and to the country, he is also damaging relations with Russia. No matter what one thinks of Russia, it is a major player in the world and for a U.S. Congressman to spend months accusing Russia of somehow altering the results of the election — based on no hard evidence — cannot possibly be helpful to our relations with Russia.
When Trump dropped the bomb a few weeks ago about Obama wiretapping him or his campaign aides, Schiff quickly went into his usual role of deflecting from the real issues and began to attack Trump’s credibility at every opportunity. But when Chairman Nunes revealed that intelligence community sources had given him information collaborating much of what Trump alleged, Schiff became visibly angry.
One must wonder if Schiff knew Obama’s people broke laws because he seemed to go into a frenzy as if he’s the guy Democrats have entrusted to keep these secrets from getting out. Indeed, within hours of Nunes’s announcement, Schiff held his own bizarre press conference, abruptly claiming, “There is more than circumstantial evidence now” of Trump’s collusion with Russia. But that was false, since no new information had been given to the committee since the last Intelligence Committee hearing. Schiff was simply trying to lure the media away from Nunes’s shocking announcement so he fabricated a story about having “new information,” but when reporters called his bluff and asked what that new information was, Schiff wouldn’t say. Schiff’s ploy to steal the headlines from Nunes didn’t work.
We can assume Schiff was angry that Nunes had briefed Trump about the wiretapping and kept him in the dark. For once, Schiff was unable to control the narrative of the committee. Like an immature child, Schiff implied that Nunes should resign: “I think the actions of today throw great doubt in the ability of both the chairman and the committee to conduct the investigation the way it ought to be conducted.”
To back up Schiff’s attack on Nunes’s chairmanship, a group of leftwing groups filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics. In response, Nunes removed himself temporarily from the committee’s investigation. Nunes announced that “The charges are entirely false and politically motivated, and are being leveled just as the American people are beginning to learn the truth about the improper unmasking of the identities of U.S. citizens and other abuses of power.”
But if the charges were entirely false, Nunes should not have stepped down; otherwise, the Republicans are allowing the horrible precedent of allowing outside pressure groups to decide who gets to chair investigations based on phony complaints. The Ethics Committee complaint mirrored Schiff’s complaint that the sharing of the Trump wiretapping intell with the President was unethical, even though there is absolutely nothing improper about what Nunes did.
The gist of the complaint is that Nunes compromised the committee’s investigation because Trump himself is a target. But Trump is not the target of the Trump wiretapping investigation; whoever was authorizing the wiretapping and disseminating this information are the targets — most likely Obama holdovers or pro-Obama civil servants. Moreover, Nunes reportedly was not sure if the wiretapping was still ongoing, so his decision to brief Trump immediately was based on potential national security concerns.
Unfortunately, Nunes’s recusal once again feeds into Schiff’s ability to control the narrative of the Trump wiretap scandal. Rather than focus on what appears to be a Watergate-size scandal involving Susan Rice and many others improperly spying on Trump’s people for purely political reasons, Schiff was able to deflect the media onto phony side issues such as Nunes sharing this information with the President and why he should resign from the investigation.
This is the reason Schiff is on this committee; he is a master deflector. We can expect Schiff to do whatever is necessary to kill the wiretapping story. He has already attempted to play this story down at his press conferences. Indeed, he has tried to discredit the story by claiming the only reason Trump was wiretapped was because “his name was mentioned incidentally in the conversation of others.” He also declared that the documents do “not suggest — in any way — that the president was wiretapped by his predecessor.” Such definitive statements made prior to any in-depth analysis of the documents, once again expose Schiff to be a partisan who is really not seeking the truth. Perhaps he is the one who should resign.The investigation is now being assumed by Congressman Mike Conaway, but let’s hope that he acts like the leader of this investigation and doesn’t allow Schiff to dominate the committee hearings. Nor is he obligated to share internal Intelligence Committee information with Schiff — like the identities of whistleblowers — or obligated to host joint press conferences with Schiff so he can continue to smear people. To put it bluntly, Schiff cannot be trusted to do what’s best for the country. For twenty years, Schiff has acted as a political hack, attacking anyone and everyone who might have information that reflects poorly on the Democrats. Conaway should notify him of the time and date of the hearings and that’s all. And then he needs to get down to business and subpoena Susan Rice, Loretta Lynch, and all other Obama officials who may have knowledge of wire tapping Trump, General Flynn, or any other Trump official.
Conaway should also expand the committee’s investigation to also include prominent Democrats who are tied into both Russia and to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. For starters, Hillary’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, sat on the board of an energy company that did business with Rusnano, a Russian Government-controlled investment fund. And Podesta’s brother, Tony, was paid $170,000 over a six-month period last year by Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, to lobby on behalf of Russia to end Obama’s sanctions. Then there’s the deal signed off by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that allowed 20% of America’s uranium supply to be sold to a Russian government-owned company, Uranium One, and the millions received around the same time period by the Clinton Foundation from Russian sources. Indeed, there’s actually more documentation on these Russian connections than Schiff’s conspiracy theories regarding Trump. It can easily be argued that if Putin wanted anyone to win the election, it would be Clinton, not Trump.
And finally, Conaway should prepare to subpoena Obama himself. It is inconceivable that any Obama official in the intelligence community would stick their neck out to approve wiretapping an incoming President or his aides without direct or indirect approval from Obama. If Schiff was acting in the best interest of the country, he would support such subpoenas, but he won’t. It will be up to Congressman Conaway to do the right thing.