A motion to censure House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., for his “parody” reading of President Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky during a hearing last month is gaining steam with House Republicans, as Fox News has learned 135 lawmakers have now signed on as co-sponsors.
The resolution to censure Schiff -- who has become a favorite target of Republicans for his role in the Trump impeachment inquiry -- was first introduced late last month by Rep. Andy Biggs, the Arizona Republican who chairs the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and has the support of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., among other ranking Republicans in the lower chamber of Congress.
Democrats have the majority and control the floor in the House, but Republicans could still attempt to force a vote on the matter.
“Schiff simply does not have the gravitas that a weighty procedure such as impeachment requires,” Biggs wrote in an opinion piece for Fox News. “He has repeatedly shown incredibly poor judgment. He has persistently and consistently demonstrated that he has such a tremendous bias and animus against Trump that he will say anything and accept any proffer of even bogus evidence to try to remove the president from office.”
Fox News has requested comment from Schiff's office.
Schiff, who is leading one of the committees investigating Trump in the impeachment inquiry announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has been under fire from conservatives for the “parody” of the president’s call with Zelensky that he read at the testimony last month of Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire.
Maguire was on Capitol Hill to defend his handling of the explosive whistleblower complaint detailing how Trump pressured his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
The complaint contains allegations related to Trump’s call with Zelensky in July, when he urged him to investigate alleged corruption involving the Bidens.
The White House last month released an unclassified version of the transcript of the phone call. The memo, which does not reflect a “verbatim transcript” but is based on “notes and recollections” of those memorializing the call, shows Trump suggesting he pursue some kind of investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden.
On the dais during Maguire’s testimony, Schiff gave his own exaggerated version of the phone call.
“I have a favor I want from you,” Schiff said while appearing to read from a paper. “And I’m going to say this only seven times, so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand? Lots of it, on this and on that.”
Schiff has defended the version of the phone call he read at the testimony and chalked up his fictional summary of the controversial phone call to parody.
“My summary of the president’s call was meant to be at least, part, in parody,” Schiff said. “The fact that that’s not clear is a separate problem in and of itself. Of course, the president never said, ‘If you don’t understand me I’m going to say it seven more times’; my point is, that’s the message that the Ukraine president was receiving in not so many words.”
Schiff’s explanation, however, did little to quell the outrage of his Republican colleagues who were already on the defensive following Pelosi’s announcement last Tuesday of the impeachment inquiry into Trump.
“Chairman Adam Schiff has been lying to the American people for years,” McCarthy said in a tweet announcing that he signed on to co-sponsor Biggs’ resolution. “Now he is so desperate to damage the president that he literally made up a false version of a phone call. Enough is enough.”
The president also voiced his anger with Schiff – who he has labeled with the nickname “Shifty Schiff” -- calling the California Democrat “desperate” and accusing him of lying to Congress.
“Rep. Adam Schiff fraudulently read to Congress, with millions of people watching, a version of my conversation with the President of Ukraine that doesn’t exist,” Trump tweeted. “He was supposedly reading the exact transcribed version of the call, but he completely changed the words to make it sound horrible, and me sound guilty.”
Schiff, however, did not take Trump’s taunt sitting down, firing back an accusation that the president was trying to “shakedown” a foreign leader and then trying to cover it up.
“You engaged in a shakedown to get election dirt from a foreign country,” Schiff said in a tweet. “And then you tried to cover it up.”
Fox News' Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.