“As long as there’s a majority in Congress that is willing to do this president’s will and as long as we have a deeply unethical president, there’s only one remedy,” Schiff said.
Schiff’s words come at the end of a week that pitted the White House against the Justice Department and left Republicans divided over concerns about the role that retired American professor and FBI source Stefan A. Halper played in the Russia investigation. They are also a clear sign that as Trump takes to Twitter to peddle his misleading “spy” claims, top Democrats are eyeing the 2018 midterm elections as crucial not just for taking back the House of Representatives, but also for defending the federal law enforcement agencies from what Schiff called a “pattern” of attacks.
Top law enforcement and intelligence community officials held back-to-back briefings with lawmakers on Thursday after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) threatened to hold officials in contempt if documents related to Halper were not turned over to Congress. But Democrats objected vehemently to White House lawyer Emmet Flood showing up for part of the closed-door meeting. Flood, Schiff said, “had no business being there.”
“The whole purpose of this meeting had nothing to do with congressional oversight,” the Democrat said. “It was to help the president’s defense by getting information improperly from the Justice Department to feed to the president’s lawyers.”
He pointed to Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, who said Friday that the White House wanted a separate Justice Department briefing about the confidential informant. Giuliani doubled down on that demand in an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”
“I think the White House has every right to know,” he said. “It should be very easy to brief us.”
Giuliani added that he no longer sees special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe as legitimate.
“Not anymore, I don’t,” he said. “I did when I came in, but now I see ‘Spygate.’ ”
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the leader of the House Freedom Caucus, also suggested Sunday in an appearance on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” that House Republicans would not relent in their quest to see the documents related to Halper and are “hopeful that will happen in the coming days.”
“There is no question that there was a spy who was collecting information,” Meadows said. “At what point do we as Americans say it is not right to spy on a campaign?”
But not all Republicans are convinced that Nunes, Meadows and other GOP lawmakers are on a legitimate quest.
“I have seen no evidence that those people were part of an investigation on the campaign,” Senate Intelligence Committee member Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Sunday on “This Week,” calling the contacts Halper made with Trump campaign advisers such as George Papadopoulos and Carter Page “appropriate, if that’s all that happened.”
“As far as what I have seen to date, it appears there was an investigation not of the campaign but of certain individuals that have a history we should be suspicious of,” Rubio said — though he added that “if there is an FBI informant or any form of inappropriate action that’s been targeting a political campaign . . . we want to know about it, and it should be punished.”
Schiff, appearing later in the show, dismissed Rubio’s caveat as “part of the propaganda machine.”
“Let’s spread a completely fallacious story and then let’s say that it needs to be investigated and give it a life of its own,” Schiff said.
Joby Warrick and Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.