If you’re old enough to remember when Republicans were pushing an official resolution that Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff should step down as leader of the House Intelligence Committee and resign … congratulations on your six-week birthday. In the wake of Attorney General William Barr’s three-page “Trump is great!” letter, provided to the American people in place of the special counsel’s report, Republicans piled on with the claim that Schiff had to go. Leading up the posse was Texas Republican Mike Conaway, who fist-pounded along to claims that Schiff had abused his leadership position and made false claims about Trump, and that Schiff’s “actions both past and present are incompatible with [his] duty as chairman of this committee.”
But then a funny thing happened. The actual Mueller report appeared, at least in a redacted version.
And now, less than two months later, Politico reports that some of those very same Republicans are singing a very, very different tune. Rather than attacking Adam Schiff, Conaway—the same man who led the charge for his resignation—is “praising Schiff for creating a newfound sense of comity on the Intelligence Committee.” And if the phrase “sense of comity” makes it sound as if Schiff won Republican praise by striking his flag and buckling … just the opposite is true. The House Intelligence Committee has issued a bipartisan request for all of the files connected to the Mueller report. The same files that Donald Trump and William Barr are now hiding behind executive privilege.
Conaway then: “We have no faith in your ability to discharge your duties in a manner consistent with your constitutional responsibility, and urge your immediate resignation as chairman of the committee.”
Conaway now: “Schiff probably deserves the lion’s share of the credit because he sets the tone as chairman.”
Meanwhile, not everyone has joined the chorus. Trump has called for Schiff’s resignation and continues to do so at his rallies. On Thursday, during an ad hoc Q & A, Trump claimed that Schiff was “conning this whole country.” But Trump doesn’t seem to be keeping all Republicans on the same page.
Over in the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Richard Burr issued a subpoena for Donald Trump Jr. In the House Intelligence Committee, Republicans are praising Adam Schiff and standing behind a request to obtain not just the full Mueller report, but all of the special counsel’s files. How did this happen?
In Schiff’s case, it seems to be a case of simple good salesmanship. In gaining the support of Republicans, Schiff first snagged the person who may seem like the least likely ally possible—frothing Trump supporter and suer of imaginary cows Devin Nunes. Nunes co-signed Schiff’s request that the committee get all of the Mueller materials. Like … all of them. It’s clear that Nunes’ intentions aren’t to clear up questions about Trump’s activities; he’s looking for ways to attack the whole underlying investigation and simply hopes to find something he can use to attack Mueller. Or maybe he wants to hand over to Trump a new cache of pillow talk between FBI agents getting romantic. But regardless of motivation, Schiff has sold Nunes on the idea of making a joint appeal.
Schiff and Nunes have even teamed up to demand that the Justice Department hand over the grand jury evidence—that same “6E” material that Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee spent the week pretending it was illegal to even request. That result was not just a pair of increasingly sharply worded requests to the DOJ, but also a subpoena issued by Schiff on Wednesday for “the full, unredacted Mueller report and all of its underlying evidence, grand jury materials and counterintelligence information”—essentially the same subpoena that Rep. Jerry Nadler issued from the House Judiciary Committee, except that Schiff made his with the support of Republicans on his committee. Which is … amazing.
This doesn’t mean that, when it comes time to enforce that subpoena by a vote on a contempt resolution or court action, Republicans won’t crawl back into William Barr’s corner. But for the moment, Schiff isn’t leading just Democrats on the Intelligence Committee; he’s leading the entire committee. And that’s an absolutely remarkable thing.