Stefanik points finger at Schiff amid congressional phone record seizure furor
New York Rep. Elise Stefanik accused California Rep. Adam Schiff of illegally leaking information and phone calls and called on the Department of Justice to pursue any unlawful release of information.
Stefanik, the No. 3 House Republican, brought up Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, after she was asked about reports that former President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice seized phone records from members of Congress, aides, and reporters.
“We've seen illegal leaks from our colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee, and there have been numerous referrals to the Department of Justice,” Stefanik said Tuesday. “It's important that the Department of Justice determined if there were any illegal leaks — the leaks by members of Congress or their staff members.”
“Let's also be perfectly clear, here, that Adam Schiff, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, released information regarding the ranking member Devin Nunes’s phone calls, as well as reporters',” Stefanik said. “That is unethical. Frankly, I believe that's illegal.”
House Intelligence Committee Democrats' Trump-Ukraine impeachment investigation report released in 2019 included records of some phone calls by Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow, lawyers for the then-president; intelligence committee ranking member Devin Nunes; journalist John Solomon; and Fox News host Sean Hannity, among other individuals.
Democrats on the committee said at the time that they did not subpoena records from Nunes and Solomon and that those records showed up in other subpoenaed material.
That differs from what the New York Times reported last week, which said that members of Congress’s records were directly subpoenaed by the Department of Justice.
Department of Justice prosecutors in 2017 and 2018 “subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, aides, and family members” during a leak investigation, the report said, and that “the records of at least a dozen people tied to the committee were seized.”
Directly addressing reports of actions from federal prosecutors, Stefanik said: “I certainly think the inspector general is going to look into this, whether there was any overreach by the Department of Justice.”
Stefanik did not address whether she would like to see former Attorneys General William Barr and Jeff Sessions testify about the phone records seizure, a threat made by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that was promptly criticized as a “witch hunt” by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“But make no mistake, there have been illegal leaks from members of Congress,” Stefanik said. “That's a national security risk. That is a federal crime. It's very serious. And we want to make sure that the Department of Justice is able to pursue any type of criminal illegal leaks.”
The House Judiciary Committee will launch an investigation into the secret subpoenas.
“Congress must make it extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, for the Department to spy on the Congress or the news media," New York Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the committee, said in a statement on Monday. "We should make it hard for prosecutors to hide behind secret gag orders for years at a time. We cannot rely on the department alone to make these changes.”