Democrat Adam Schiff avoids House censure over his Trump-Russia collusion claims

Over 20 Republicans help block resolution; other GOP members vow to again seek censure, but without $16 million fine some see as unconstitutional

Rep. Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, speaks as the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol holds its final meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 19, 2022. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Rep. Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, speaks as the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol holds its final meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 19, 2022. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has rejected an effort to censure California Rep. Adam Schiff, turning aside a Republican attempt to fine the Democrat over his comments about former US president Donald Trump and investigations into his ties to Russia.

Schiff, the former Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the lead prosecutor in Trump’s first impeachment trial, has long been a top Republican political target. Soon after taking back the majority this year, Republicans blocked him from sitting on the intelligence panel.

But Schiff was helped Wednesday by more than 20 Republicans who voted with Democrats to stop the censure resolution or voted “present,” giving Democrats enough votes to block the measure.

The vote was a rare victory for Democrats in the Republican-led House, and they cheered and patted Schiff on the back after the vote was gaveled down.

“I’m flattered they think I’m so effective they have to go after me in this way,” Schiff, who is running for Senate in his liberal state, told reporters afterward. “It’s not going to deter me.”

Florida Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, a newly elected Republican who sponsored the measure, passed Schiff in the hallway after the vote and told him she would try again.

Luna later tweeted that she would remove a portion of the resolution that suggested a $16 million fine if the House Ethics Committee determined that Schiff “lied, made misrepresentations and abused sensitive information.” Some Republicans, including Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, had argued that the fine — which Luna had said was half the cost of the Mueller probe — was unconstitutional.

“Next week, we will be filing a motion to censure and investigate Schiff,” Luna tweeted. “We are removing fine as that seems to be what made these Republicans uneasy.”

She tweeted, “See you next week, Adam.”

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, Republican of Florida, takes her seat as the House Oversight and Accountability Committee holds an organizational meeting for the 118th Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, January 31, 2023. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The resolution says that Schiff held positions of power during Trump’s presidency and “abused this trust by saying there was evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.” Schiff was one of the most outspoken critics of the former president as both the Justice Department and the Republican-led House launched investigations into Trump’s ties to Russia in 2017.

“By repeatedly telling these falsehoods, Representative Schiff purposely deceived his Committee, Congress, and the American people,” the resolution said.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, who led the two-year Justice Department investigation, determined that Russia intervened on the campaign’s behalf and that Trump’s campaign welcomed the help. But Mueller’s team did not find that the campaign conspired to sway the election, and the Justice Department did not recommend any charges.

The congressional probe, launched by Republicans who were then in the majority, similarly found that Russia intervened in the election but that there was no evidence of a conspiracy. Schiff was the top Democrat on the panel at the time.

If the House had voted to censure him, Schiff would have stood in the front of the chamber while the text of the resolution was read.

On Tuesday, Schiff told reporters that the censure resolution was “red meat” that Speaker Kevin McCarthy is throwing to his conference amid squabbles over government spending. Republicans are trying to show their fealty to Trump, Schiff said.

He said he warned the country during impeachment proceedings three years ago that Trump “would go on to do worse. And of course he did worse in the form of a violent attack on the Capitol.”

Former US president Donald Trump gestures after speaking at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, June 13, 2023. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

After Democrats won the House majority in 2018, the House impeached Trump for abuse of power after he threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine and urged the country’s president to investigate then-candidate Joe Biden. Schiff was the lead House prosecutor making the case for conviction to the Senate — ” right matters,” he said repeatedly — but the Republican-led chamber ultimately acquitted him.

Trump was impeached a second time a year later, after he had left office, for his role in the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol of his supporters. The Senate again acquitted Trump.

Luna in the censure resolution against Schiff also cited a report released in May from special counsel John Durham that found that the FBI rushed into its investigation of Trump’s campaign and relied too much on raw and unconfirmed intelligence.

Durham said investigators repeatedly relied on “confirmation bias,” ignoring or rationalizing away evidence that undercut their premise of a Trump-Russia conspiracy as they pushed the probe forward. But he did not allege that political bias or partisanship were guiding factors for the FBI’s actions.

Trump had claimed that Durham’s report would reveal the “crime of the century” and expose a “deep state conspiracy” by high-ranking government officials to derail his candidacy and later his presidency. But the investigation yielded only one conviction — a guilty plea from a little-known FBI employee — and the only two other cases that were brought both ended in acquittals at trial.

The House censure resolution comes days after Trump was indicted on detailed federal charges of hoarding classified documents – several of which dealt with sensitive national security matters — and attempting to conceal them. House Republicans, most of whom are loyal to Trump, say the indictment is evidence that the government is conspiring against the former president.

McCarthy, a Republican of California, called the indictment a “grave injustice” and said that House Republicans “will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable.”

Rep. Jason Crow, Democrat of Colorado, talks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 15, 2021. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Democratic Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, who served as an impeachment manager with Schiff, says Republicans are trying to rewrite history.

“This is clearly a handful of Republican members of the House that are trying to do Donald Trump’s bidding and trying to distract from his very serious legal problems,” Crow said.

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