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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

House censures Adam Schiff over his role investigating Trump

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report that found fault with the FBI over the Russia inquiry on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 21, 2023.

By Luke Broadwater

The GOP-led House formally censured Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., earlier this week over his role investigating former President Donald Trump, the first in what could be a series of votes seeking to punish those whom Republicans have deemed the party’s enemies.

The censure passed by a party-line vote of 213-209 with six Republicans voting “present.” The measure had the backing of Speaker Kevin McCarthy after its lead sponsor, Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., altered its language to remove a multimillion-dollar fine some Republicans viewed as unconstitutional.

“Adam Schiff launched an all-out political campaign built on baseless distortions against a sitting U.S. president,” Luna said. The censure accused him of engaging in “falsehoods, misrepresentations and abuses of sensitive information” as he sought to unearth connections between Trump and Russia.

It is rare for a member of Congress to be censured, a punishment that amounts to a public reprimand. The House has censured members just 24 times in the chamber’s history, and typically only after a finding of wrongdoing. Before Schiff, just two members of the House had been censured in almost four decades.

Democrats erupted in chants of “Shame!” at the Republicans after the vote, and surrounded Schiff in a protective circle as he walked to the well of the House to receive the censure. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., called out that the proceedings were a “disgrace.”

Five of the six Republicans who voted “present” are members of the Ethics Committee. Such a vote is traditional to maintain independence in such cases for ethics panel members, who would have the task of investigating Schiff.

Schiff, who is seeking a Senate seat and has cited the censure against him in fundraising efforts, said he was being made a target solely because he had stood up to Trump.

Schiff led the first impeachment prosecution against Trump and served on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

“You honor me with your enmity,” Schiff told the Republicans from the House floor, pointing out that Trump had been indicted over charges that he mishandled classified documents.

“Donald Trump is under indictment for actions that jeopardize our national security, and McCarthy would spend the nation’s time on petty political payback, thinking he can censure or fine Tump’s opposition into submission,” Schiff said. “But I will not yield. Not one inch.”

The vote came at a time of rising Republican anger, as hard-right members in Congress increasingly agitate for the impeachment of President Joe Biden or members of his administration.

Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., a leader of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, is seeking to force a vote on impeaching Biden this week. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who has been pushing to impeach FBI Director Christopher Wray, on Wednesday accused Boebert of copying her impeachment articles against Biden.

But McCarthy on Wednesday sought to impose a sense of strategy on his fractious conference. The speaker used a closed-door meeting of Republicans to argue against a quick impeachment of Biden, according to a person familiar with the matter.

McCarthy argued Republicans would look inconsistent if they pressed to censure Schiff for what Republicans believe was a politicized impeachment process, and then turned around and impeached Biden before the House committees investigating the Biden administration and the business interests of Biden family members had finished their work.

McCarthy told members he was not opposed to eventually carrying out impeachment proceedings against Biden or one of his Cabinet officials, but that he believed a proper investigation must be conducted first.

House speakers often struggle to control their more aggressive members. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who wielded a renowned control of the House floor, famously could not prevent Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, from forcing a vote to impeach Trump before she was ready to do so.

The House Republicans’ rush to punish Schiff and Biden comes a week after Trump was charged federally over allegations he mishandled classified documents, and a day after the Justice Department announced prosecutors would charge the president’s son, Hunter Biden, with misdemeanor tax crimes. Republicans spent much of Tuesday railing against what they called a “two-tier justice system,” in which the younger Biden was facing penalties they believed were too lenient.

Luna’s initial effort to punish Schiff failed last week, when the House voted 225-196 to table, or kill, her first resolution. Her original effort called for an ethics investigation into Schiff and a $16 million fine if he was found to have lied.

Libertarian-leaning Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., was among the Republicans who argued the fine was unconstitutional.

The last member to be censured was Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., in 2021, after he posted a manipulated video on his social media depicting himself killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and attacking Biden.

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