Republicans set to force vote formally rebuking Schiff

By Melanie Zanona

House Republicans took steps on Wednesday to force a floor vote on a measure formally condemning Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who is leading the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), the head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, filed the censure resolution as “privileged,” meaning the House now has to act within the next two legislative days. While Democrats will likely just move to table the symbolic measure, it represents the GOP’s most aggressive offensive yet as the party tries to coalesce around a strategy to beat back Democratic impeachment efforts.

“On numerous occasions, Chairman Adam Schiff has used his position to mislead the American people. This censure resolution is about restoring a process that is fair, objective, and fact-based,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). “I call for his censure in the House.”

The censure resolution, which is sponsored by over 150 Republicans, has the backing of top GOP leaders including McCarthy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the third highest-ranking House Republican.

Trump and the GOP have seized on Schiff’s mid-hearing exaggerated rendition of Trump’s phone call with Ukraine to make it sound like a mob boss shakedown, as well as a New York Times report that a whistleblower sought guidance from an Intelligence Committee aide, which Republicans have used to allege without evidence that Schiff helped coordinate the complaint. Both episodes were cited in the censure resolution.

Republicans have also complained that Democrats are holding close-door depositions in their impeachment inquiry and have yet to formally authorize their probe, which has become their central argument in the impeachment fight.

“No more secret proceedings. No more Soviet-style proceedings,” Biggs said on the floor.

Republicans initially struggled to respond to allegations that Trump asked foreign leaders to dig up dirt on his political rivals, but the GOP has shifted their response to focus on process and procedure concerns as well as to demonize Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

And in the absence of a centralized defense strategy from the White House, GOP leaders have sought to fill the messaging void by hosting regular impeachment briefings for members featuring various special guests. The first briefing will take place Wednesday afternoon with Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a top Trump ally.