The House of Representatives, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will not punish Rep. Adam Schiff for targeting his political enemies with secret subpoenas of their phone records. Unethical, invasive, illegal activity is permissible as long as its focus is against President Trump. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
With the both the Democrats' furious drive to impeach the president and the Justice Department Inspector General's report on FBI surveillance abuse swirling on Capitol Hill, it's easy to miss something that seems to be a footnote or detail. In "normal" times, the subject would be a banner headline, not a footnote, but we hardly live in such times now.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, targeted his political enemies with secret subpoenas of their phone records and then made those records public. Were his enemies the subject of the Intelligence Committee investigations? No. The victims of Schiff's criminal abuse of his subpoena power – his personal political enemies – were the Ranking Member of Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA); veteran, award-winning, journalist John Solomon; and the personal attorney of the President of the United States, Rudy Giuliani.
Did Schiff have the legal authority to target these individuals and obtain their records? Nunes, Solomon and Giuliani were not the subjects of the committee's investigation. Each had taken very public positions opposing Schiff's drive for impeachment. Each had produced evidence and documentation undercutting Schiff's assertions of grounds for impeachment and had criticized Schiff's earlier (disproven) claims of "Russian collusion" by President Trump.
The Supreme Court has ruled that Congressional subpoena power cannot "be used to inquire into private affairs unrelated to a valid legislative purpose," and is limited in other ways consistent with the privacy rights of individuals guaranteed by law and the constitution. One wonders how the legal counsels at AT&T and Verizon evaluated their own corporate legal exposure in participating with Schiff's scheme.
Sticking with the Left's technique of "projection" – falsely accusing your opponent of the very misconduct you are committing – Schiff claimed, "evidence that there were members of Congress complicit" in using official power "to dig up dirt on a political rival." The irony is rich.
Schiff's release of telephone call metadata reveals who spoke to whom and for how long. There are reportedly no transcripts of the calls themselves, that we know of, right now. Who, specifically, made the decision and then ordered the phone records? We do not know, because Schiff refused to appear before the House Judiciary Committee and provide sworn testimony on the work of the committee he chairs. Instead, Daniel Goldman, Senior Advisor & Director of Investigations for the Intelligence Committee, appeared and when pressed to explain the telephone subpoena, obfuscated in a cowardly fashion, claiming he could not disclose the committee's internal investigative procedures. Goldman was faced with throwing Schiff under the bus or revealing his own culpability in executing one of the most egregious abuses of congressional power in the history of the republic.
What's the big deal about Schiff's phone record grab? He spied on a fellow member of Congress. That's not just unprecedented, it's a grave abuse of Congressional norms and etiquette; an invasion of Nunes' privacy; and a tacit allegation of Nunes being part of the alleged "crimes" Schiff was investigating.
Schiff also assaulted the First Amendment and targeted a journalist. John Solomon's investigative work on Ukraine is unparalleled. He backs up his reporting with documents and on-the-record quotes. One would think the entire Washington press corps would rush to Solomon's aid and condemn Schiff's "fascist police state tactics" against a free press. Not so much. A lot of the anti-Trump Fourth Estate are A-OK with destroying Solomon's ability to cultivate sources and work in Washington. Of course, had Donald Trump done the same thing Schiff did, the news media would be clamoring to make it another article of impeachment.
Lastly, and perhaps most dangerously, Schiff spied on the president's personal attorney. That is a clear invasion of attorney-client privilege as well as personal privacy. The DC Bar should open an inquiry. The Department of Justice should investigate. They won't.
The House of Representatives, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will not punish Schiff. Unethical, invasive, illegal activity is permissible as long as its focus is against President Trump. Perhaps Senator Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up the matter in the context of the forthcoming impeachment trial, but I doubt it.
Maybe Schiff's phone records would be "revealing?" "Whistleblower" contacts? Press leaks? Who knows? Why stop there? If all political enemies can be "legally" targeted under the Schiff template, we can slide further and faster towards the failed state we are incrementally becoming.
Schiff's conduct is outrageous and is a threat to the Constitution. He is operating outside the law. A new House majority come 2020 might find the courage to confront Schiff's misconduct. Expulsion from Congress seems appropriate. One thing is for certain: if Schiff's conduct stands unchallenged, the country and our Constitution will have suffered irreversible harm.
Chris Farrell is a former counterintelligence case officer. For the past 20 years, he has served as the Director of Investigations & Research for Judicial Watch. The views expressed are the author's alone, and not necessarily those of Judicial Watch.