GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz files ethics complaint against Schiff, cites 'unprofessional and divisive' conduct
Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz filed an ethics complaint against House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Wednesday, citing “rules broken” and “false statements” as Schiff plays a starring role in the House impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
Gaetz sent a letter Wednesday to the House Ethics Committee urging the panel to open an official investigation into Schiff, accusing the Democrat of improper conduct during the impeachment inquiry and the Russia investigation.
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“Today I filed an ethics complaint against @RepAdamSchiff for: Distorting @POTUS’s call with President Zelensky; Lying to the public about ‘Russian Collusion;’ Blocking Members of Congress from attending impeachment depositions,” Gaetz tweeted. “Schiff must be held accountable.”
Patrick Boland, a spokesman for Schiff, hit back at the Republican congressman, saying in a statement provided to Fox News, "We don’t think anyone takes Mr. Gaetz seriously, especially on the subject of ethics."
In his letter to the Ethics Committee, Gaetz took issue with Schiff’s behavior during an Intelligence Committee hearing last month, saying the California Democrat “gave a wildly-inaccurate and distorted ‘retelling’” of the highly-controversial phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this summer.
Gaetz said Schiff was “grossly misrepresenting the content of the call to the American people" and argued Schiff's “bizarre distortion” of the call was in violation of House rules.
“This behavior does not ‘reflect credibility on the House,’ nor does it follow ‘the spirit and the letter of the Rules of the House,’” Gaetz wrote. “It is incumbent on Members of Congress to be accurate and honest to the American people, and Chairman Schiff has been neither.”
He added that Schiff’s actions were a “blatant and clear-cut violation” of precedent, which he cited as specifically “prohibiting making ‘accusations that the President has committed a crime,’ or claiming ‘that the President has done something illegal.’
“Unfortunately, Mr. Schiff’s behavior cannot be construed as an ‘honest mistake,’ as it is long-standing and habitual,” Gaetz said, noting that the Intelligence Committee chairman claimed throughout the Russia investigation that he had “more than circumstantial evidence” that Trump and his campaign were “colluding” with the Russians during the 2016 presidential election.
Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, though, stated the contrary—that there “was not sufficient evidence to charge a conspiracy” with regard to whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government in 2016.
“Mr. Schiff’s unprofessional and divisive behavior has caused conflict within the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,” Gaetz wrote, recalling earlier this year when all Republican lawmakers on the panel signed a letter calling for his immediate resignation.
Gaetz’s formal complaint to the Ethics Committee comes after other run-ins with Schiff and Democrats conducting the impeachment inquiry this month.
Last week, Gaetz was among the approximately 30 House Republicans who stormed a closed-door session connected to the impeachment inquiry, prompting Schiff to suspend the proceedings.
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Gaetz, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, was also kicked out of another session earlier this month as former deputy assistant to the president Fiona Hill answered questions behind closed doors. Gaetz was told he could not attend because he is not part of the House Intelligence Committee, which is conducting the investigation along with the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees.
This week, Pelosi announced the House would formalize and establish the parameters of the Trump impeachment inquiry with a vote expected to be held on Thursday.
The impeachment inquiry was opened after a whistleblower complaint alleged that Trump, during a July phone call, pushed Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter as military aid to the country was being withheld.
Schiff has responded to attacks from Republicans by accusing them of lacking "courage."
"It will be said of House Republicans, When they found they lacked the courage to confront the most dangerous and unethical president in American history, They consoled themselves by attacking those who did," Schiff said on Twitter earlier this month.
The Republican strategy, thus far, has been to blast the way in which Democrats have handled the impeachment process. On Wednesday, Trump weighed in, reportedly encouraging GOP lawmakers to, instead, "go after the details" of the case -- something Schiff highlighted.
"Trump has urged Republicans to focus on the substance in the impeachment inquiry, not the process. I can confirm our focus will continue to be on the President’s own words and misconduct. Glad we all agree," Schiff tweeted Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Tea Party Patriots, a conservative organization, filed an ethics complaint against Pelosi on Wednesday to the Office of Congressional Ethics, claiming the speaker has demonstrated “multiple violations” of House conduct in the impeachment inquiry.
The group argued that Pelosi has “weaponized” impeachment and “abused her power as Speaker of the House of Representatives,” and claimed she is “unfit” to serve.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.