Clues into how Rep. Adam B. Schiff is secretly running the Democrats’ Ukraine impeachment inquiry are contained in his 2018 Russia report in which he demanded at least 60 more witnesses while venturing down scores of investigative alleys.
A Republican Hill staffer told The Washington Times that Mr. Schiff’s technique is to pile witness upon witness — some he calls “foundational” witnesses — in hopes of finding anything detrimental to President Trump. The source said Russia conspiracies that Mr. Schiff pursued haven’t materialized.
Mr. Schiff, in his 99-page dissent to a Republican finding of no Trump-Russia conspiracy, also chastised the majority on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence for holding few public hearings. This is the same complaint Republicans are now lodging against Mr. Schiff. The California Democrat and now committee chairman has held one open hearing as he grills witnesses in private.
“The Majority held only four open hearings during the course of the investigation,” Mr. Schiff and his Democratic colleagues wrote in 2018.
Mr. Schiff is irking Mr. Trump by coming up with more and more figures he wants to interrogate from the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies.
A frustrated Mr. Trump complained last week on Twitter: “How many people can [Democrats] talk to? We had a simple conversation. The whistleblower, who seems to be a Democrat that’s involved with a lot of people, gave a false interpretation of the conversation. So I don’t know why they’d be calling [Energy Secretary] Rick Perry. I don’t know why they’d be calling all these people. It’s a very bad situation for our country. You have to run a country. I just don’t think you can have everybody testify.”
A year ago, Mr. Schiff wrote: “The Majority refused to seek testimony from dozens of witnesses proposed by the Minority.”
He said the full depth of a Trump-Kremlin conspiracy had yet to be uncovered as his staff continued to call in witnesses.
“We have assembled to date a significant body of evidence from witness interviews, hearings, classified intelligence, and materials produced to the Committee, which has in turn identified new leads, persons, and entities of interest,” Mr. Schiff wrote.
A year later, those supposed new leads have not materialized in public.
Special counsel Robert Mueller in March released a 448-page report that said his team of FBI agents, prosecutors and intelligence analysts failed to find a Trump election conspiracy. It was essentially the same conclusion reached in 2018 by then-House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes, California Republican.
“Schiff’s M.O., both with the Russia and the Ukraine investigation, is to use some flimsy pretext, the dossier and the whistleblower complaint, to get an initial set of witness names, then use them to get more names and then to get more names,” said the Republican congressional staffer. “He then runs a sprawling, fishing-expedition-type investigation, hoping if he talks to enough people and gets enough documents, some malfeasance he doesn’t know about will turn up.”
Mr. Schiff championed the 2016 Democratic Party-financed, Kremlin-sourced dossier that leveled a dozen conspiracy charges against Trump associates — none proved.
He now is relying on a CIA analyst/Democratic whistleblower complaint about Mr. Trump’s phone call in July with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Mr. Trump asked him to talk with Attorney General William Barr about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s role in Ukraine. That request is the thrust of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
Republicans call Mr. Schiff a perpetual liar. They have asked him to step down as chairman three times this year for uttering what they say are falsehoods and citing conspiracies that don’t exist.
Now totaling 108 co-sponsors, a Republican resolution condemns Mr. Schiff for reading from the Zelensky call transcript and citing words that the president did not say. Mr. Schiff quoted Mr. Trump as asking Mr. Zelensky to fabricate evidence — something not in the official transcript or nine-page complaint.
In his 2018 report, Mr. Schiff said he wanted to call a string of White House witnesses but Mr. Nunes would not let him. Mr. Trump allowed all requested White House personnel to be interviewed by Mr. Mueller’s FBI prosecution team.
Wrote Mr. Schiff: “The Majority’s report reflects a lack of seriousness and interest in pursuing the truth. By refusing to call in key witnesses, by refusing to request pertinent documents, and by refusing to compel and enforce witness cooperation and answers to key questions, the Majority hobbled the Committee’s ability to conduct a credible investigation that could inspire public confidence.”
Spies and ‘shady data’
One trail Mr. Schiff wanted to follow involved George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser working in London.
The official FBI timeline is that Papadopoulos triggered the Trump investigation when he repeated to an Australian diplomat a piece of gossip he heard from Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud. Mr. Mifsud said he heard in Moscow, where he attended a conference, that the Kremlin owned dirt on 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. Moscow intelligence did in fact hack Democratic Party computers and steal thousands of messages and other documents.
“The Committee was unable to examine the precise facts regarding Russia’s approach to Papadopoulos,” Mr. Schiff said.
He also linked the Mifsud incident to a Russian lawyer visiting Trump Tower in June 2016 with a promise to provide dirt on Mrs. Clinton. The brief meeting ended when the lawyer disclosed her real purpose: She represented a rich Russian who wanted economic sanctions lifted.
The Mueller report drew no link between the Mifsud conversation and the Russian lawyer’s visit with Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign officials.
The Mueller report found no evidence that Papadopoulos shared the Mifsud comment with the Trump campaign or that he acted in any way to try to acquire the emails.
Papadopoulos said he believes Mr. Mifsud, a well-traveled academic who taught in Rome and London, was a Western intelligence asset sent to spy on him. It is known that the FBI put two spies on Papadopoulos in London: professor Stefan Halper and his supposed assistant.
The Mueller report depicts Mr. Mifsud as a Russian asset. The report makes no mention of his multiple ties to Western government officials.
Mr. Schiff also wanted to call more witnesses to flesh out the involvement of Cambridge Analytica, a polling and data mining consulting firm in England.
Cambridge improperly received Facebook users’ data, making it the subject of investigative journalists and a parliamentary inquiry.
Liberal news outlets floated the conspiracy that Cambridge and the Trump campaign hooked up in a Kremlin conspiracy. Cambridge did a limited amount of Trump polling.
One news website said, “Cambridge Analytica, the shady data firm that might be a key Trump-Russia link, explained.”
Mr. Schiff wrote: “Even as the Majority shutters its own investigation into Russia’s meddling, new developments have emerged related to Cambridge Analytica, which ran the Trump campaign’s digital media operation.”
Mr. Mueller was assigned the task of investigating “any links” between a Trump ally and the Russian government. His report doesn’t mention Cambridge Analytica.
Mr. Schiff said in March that is he still investigating Cambridge.
Mr. Schiff said this question in 2018 was left unanswered: “Whether and to what extent certain U.S. persons, including individuals associated with then-candidate Trump, his companies, and his campaign, knew of, abetted, or were otherwise involved in Russia’s active measures, including its anonymous dissemination efforts.”
Again, the Mueller report said investigators found no such conspiracy.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a fellow California Democrat, has stuck by Mr. Schiff.
After the Mueller report showed no conspiracy, Republicans made their first call for Mr. Schiff’s resignation.
“Chairman Schiff has done an outstanding job and that’s the reason why he’s subject to these ridiculous attacks,” Ashley Etienne, the speaker’s spokeswoman, told The Hill newspaper.
“Democrats aren’t going to be intimidated by the White House or Congressional Republicans, we’re not going to be distracted from securing the release of the full Mueller report and the underlying evidence, and we will continue to pursue legitimate oversight because that’s what the Constitution requires. The days of Congress ignoring the mountain of legal and ethical misconduct by this President and Administration are over,” Ms. Etienne said.
More recently, Mrs. Pelosi defended Mr. Schiff for saying the transcript of the July phone call with the Ukrainian president included pressure by Mr. Trump to make up evidence against Mr. Biden.