All nine Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee have signed a letter calling for its chairman, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, to step down, citing his claims that there was evidence that President Donald Trump's campaign colluded with the Russians during the 2016 race.
Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, introduced the scathing letter during a public committee hearing Thursday and then read it aloud.
"Your willingness to continue to promote a demonstrably false narrative is alarming," Conaway said. "The findings of the special counsel conclusively refute your past and present exertions, and have exposed you of having abused your position to knowingly promote false information."
"Your actions both past and present are incompatible with your duty as chairman of this committee," Conaway added. "As such, we have no faith in your ability to discharge your duties in a manner consistent with your constitutional responsibility, and urge your immediate resignation as chairman of the committee."
Schiff then defended himself, listing off a series of events investigated by Mueller that he deemed inappropriate, including when the president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., set up a meeting at Trump Tower with a Kremlin-linked lawyer and her Russian entourage after they offered unspecified Russian government "dirt" on Democratic president candidate Hillary Clinton.
"My colleagues may think it is OK that the Russians offered dirt on a Democratic candidate for president as part of what was described as the Russian government's attempt to help the Trump campaign. You might think that's OK," Schiff said. "My colleagues might think it's OK that when it 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 Russian."
Referring to former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, who admitted to lying to the FBI about the substance of his conversations with the then-Russian ambassador, Schiff continued: "You might think it's OK that the national security adviser-designate secretly conferred with Russian ambassador about undermining sanctions, and you might think it's OK he lied about it to the FBI. You might say that's all OK."
"But I don't think its OK. I think it's immoral. I think it's unethical, and I think it is unpatriotic," Schiff said. "And yes, I think it is corrupt. And evidence of collusion."
"Now, I have always said whether this amounts to proof of conspiracy is 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," the California lawmaker added.
Schiff, who had long been one of the loudest Democratic voices on the issue of Russian interference, has been a target of Republicans in the days since special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation ended.
Trump himself tweeted earlier Thursday that Schiff “should be forced to resign” from Congress and said he had “spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that "Republicans are afraid of the truth" — "they're just scaredy cats... afraid of a leader" who's "calm, professional, patriotic," she said at her weekly press conference.
"I'm so proud of the work of Chairman Adam Schiff," said Pelosi, adding that Schiff's GOP predecessor on the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., had engaged in "irresponsible, almost criminal behavior."
"It’s their own insecurity. Their own fear of the truth, their fear of the facts and their fear of an effective patriotic leader in his measured way who’s going to make sure that the American people know the truth," she added.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who sits on the House Intelligence Committee with Schiff, defended her colleague, saying that the attacks on him were "orchestrated from the White House."
"The president tweeted about it, then members all signed a letter and then they spent, each of them, the majority of their time not talking about questions they had for those that were there to testify but systemically trying to attack the integrity of Adam Schiff," she said on MSNBC. "And it was reprehensible. I’ve never seen anything like that."
Earlier this week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway and numerous GOP lawmakers called on Schiff to resign as chairman for having claimed there was "more than circumstantial" evidence that Trump's presidential campaign conspired with the Kremlin in an effort to win the 2016 presidential election.
McCarthy reiterated those calls at his weekly press conference Thursday, saying that Pelosi should remove Schiff to "restore trust in the Intelligence Committee."
"All Americans should be concerned with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee taking the position of judge and jury," McCarthy added after pointing to moments when Schiff said there was evidence of collusion.
According to a summary of Mueller's long-awaited findings by Attorney General William Barr, released Sunday, there was no coordination or conspiracy involving Trump, his campaign and the Russian government.
The summary also said Mueller had reached no conclusion about whether the president had obstructed justice, though Barr wrote that he decided there was insufficient evidence to pursue an obstruction charge.
Throughout the Mueller probe, Schiff had repeatedly suggested more incriminating information would emerge from the investigations into the Trump campaign. "I can tell you that the case is more than that and I can't go into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now," he told Chuck Todd on MSNBC's "Meet the Press Daily" in March 2017.