House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and a top Republican sparred on the House floor about the investigation Schiff led into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Hunter Biden’s questionable business dealings.
The spat came during floor debate Thursday ahead of a vote on the Protecting Our Democracy Act, a bill designed in response to actions or threats by former President Donald Trump while he was in office that would rein in presidential authority.
“Every time Chairman Schiff rises to speak on a bill about intelligence and security and holding the president accountable, I get excited hoping we’re going to hear about that evidence of collusion and all the other investigations that were conducted in the House,” said House Oversight and Reform Committee ranking member James Comer, a Kentucky Republican.
Schiff, who led investigations into the Trump campaign's ties with the Kremlin, has been on the defensive since the British ex-spy Christopher Steele's dossier on alleged Trump-Russia links was widely discredited. The California Democrat has long insisted there was evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia and even read some of the dossier's claims into the congressional record.
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Comer’s comment prompted Schiff to interject and defend his work.
“Are you aware,” Schiff said, “that the president’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort [secretly] met with an agent of Russian intelligence and provided Russian intelligence with internal campaign polling data, as well as strategic insights about their intelligence in key battleground states? Are you aware of that?”
Manafort resigned from the campaign in August 2016 amid reports of his past business dealings for Russia-aligned leaders in Ukraine, and during special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, he was convicted on tax and bank fraud charges. No one from the Trump campaign was charged with criminal conspiracy with Russia, but Mueller did find that Manafort gave polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the Treasury Department later sanctioned and deemed a Russian intelligence services agent who provided Kremlin spies with “sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy” during the 2016 presidential race.
“I think everyone is aware of every bit of information that you all have tried to peddle over the last four years,” Comer responded.
“Are you aware that while the Trump campaign chairman was providing internal polling data, that Kremlin intelligence was leading a clandestine social media campaign to elect Donald Trump?” Schiff said.
“I think we see every day — Facebook just announced that Russia was trying to do a Facebook campaign in Ukraine, if I remember reading that correctly,” Comer said.
He turned his attention to Hunter Biden’s business history, which has prompted widespread scrutiny and was used as a campaign attack line by Trump during the 2020 election against now-President Joe Biden.
“Are you aware of President Biden’s son Hunter’s art dealings? Are you aware of the president’s son’s dealings ... in Congo with the cobalt mine? Are you aware of the dealings in Ukraine?” Comer said.
“I am aware of President Trump’s son meeting secretly in Trump Tower New York with a Russian delegation with the purpose of receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton, which the Russian delegation represented was part of the Russian government’s effort to help elect Donald Trump in 2016. And I am aware that ... Donald Trump Jr. said in response to that Russian offer of dirt on Donald Trump’s opponent that he would love it, suggested the best time would be in late summer, and had a secret meeting in Trump Tower,” Schiff said. “And when asked about that secret meeting, both the president and his son lied about it. Are you aware about those facts?”
“I think that everyone’s seen all the information, again, that you all have peddled,” Comer responded. “I’m curious if you would like to make a wager on which president’s child, which president’s son, at the end of the day, once we have the gavel, will ... be the most security risk to our nation.”
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“I’m happy to continue to outline the contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, their solicitation of Russian help in the election, the former president’s effort to coerce Ukraine into helping him cheat in the election,” Schiff said.
“They have spent a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of tax dollars on trying to peddle a lot of wrongdoing in the previous administration,” Comer retorted.