When House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) issued his report on the impeachment inquiry, he included the private phone records of his Republican counterpart, two attorneys for the president, at least one journalist, and several other American citizens.
Now, Schiff and his committee are the subjects of a lawsuit filed by conservative-leaning government watchdog group Judicial Watch, which seeks all relevant committee communications to determine what legal basis Schiff had in accessing those records in the first place, according to Breitbart.
Setting the stage
Ostensibly, Schiff had subpoenaed and included the phone records in his report as a way to reconstruct a supposed conspiracy involving President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA), journalist John Solomon, White House Counsel Jay Sekulow, and a number of other American citizens.
Schiff alleged that the Trump administration had tried to oust from her position former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch — despite the fact that it was well within President Trump’s executive authority to recall or even fire her for any or no reason at all.
It is believed that Schiff issued subpoenas to AT&T — and perhaps Verizon — to obtain call logs of several unidentified phone numbers in his bid to reconstruct the purported conspiracy. It remains unclear, however, what legal authority Schiff had to issue such subpoenas and it has been argued that in doing so, Schiff violated the constitutional rights of the individuals he included in the report.
On the case
In a Dec. 20 press release from Judicial Watch announcing the lawsuit, it was made clear that the suit had been filed only after initial requests for information were ignored by Schiff and his committee.
The lawsuit demanded “all subpoenas issued by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on or about September 30, 2019 to any telecommunications provider including, but not limited to AT&T, Inc., for records of telephone calls of any individuals,” as well as “all responses received to the above-referenced subpoenas.”
Judicial Watch cited three primary reasons why the subpoena information and communications needed to be released, writing: “The records are of critical public importance as the subpoenas were issued without any lawful basis and violated the rights of numerous private citizens; Disclosure of the requested records would serve the public interest by providing information about the unlawful issuance of the subpoenas; The requested records fall within the scope of the public’s right of access to governmental records as a matter of federal common law.”
In a statement included in the press release, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said: “Adam Schiff abused his power to secretly subpoena and then publish the private phone records, in potential violation of law, of innocent Americans. What else is Mr. Schiff hiding?”
He went on: “Schiff and his Committee ran roughshod over the rule of law in pursuit of the abusive impeachment of President Trump. This lawsuit serves as a reminder that Congressman Schiff and Congress are not above the law.”
Crossing the line
By any honest account, it appears that Schiff crossed a line and abused his power as a committee chairman to not only subpoena the phone records of political opponents, but also to publish and publicly accuse — with virtually no supporting evidence — American citizens of being engaged in an unlawful conspiracy.
It may very well have been Schiff that acted unlawfully, however — and if that’s the case, this lawsuit from Judicial Watch should see to it that the California Democrat is held accountable.