Judicial Watch Files Ethics Complaint Against Chairman Schiff for Contacts With Witnesses

By Michael W. Chapman | March 18, 2019 | 1:24pm EDT
House Intelligence Committee
Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) -- Citing his contact with Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, who procured "unverified" information about alleged Russia-Trump collusion, and ex-attorney and convicted perjurer Michael Cohen, who testified against President Trump in February, the government watchdog group Judicial Watch has filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, for "inappropriately communicating with witnesses."

"This letter serves as our official complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) concerning the activities of Rep. Adam Schiff," states Judicial Watch in its March 11 letter to the Office of Congressional Ethics, headed by former Congressman David Skaggs (D-Colo.)  

Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

"Rep. Schiff appears to have violated House Code of Official Conduct, Rule 23, clauses 1 and 2, by inappropriately communicating with witnesses,"said Judicial Watch.  "Clauses 1 and 2 provide: 1. A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.

And, "2. A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House shall adhere to the spirit and the letter of the Rules of the House and to the rules of duly constituted committees thereof."

In July 2018, Rep. Schiff attended the Aspen Security Forum conference, where he met and spoke with Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson. As The Hill newspaper reported, cited by Judicial Watch, "At the time of the encounter, Simpson was an important witness in the House Intelligence Committee probe who had given sworn testimony about alleged, but still unproven, collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign."

Simpson's firm was the one that procured "unverified" information about alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russia, a claim that has been refuted by the Senate Intelligence Committee and, so far, not verified in any capacity by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigation. 

"Fusion GPS-supplied information was the basis upon which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) obtained Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) surveillance warrants against Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page," said Judicial Watch. 

"Mr. Simpson’s leadership of Fusion GPS and his centrality to events resulted in his having to testify before congressional committees or their staffs," said the watchdog group. "Specifically, Mr. Simpson testified before the House Intelligence Committee, of which Rep. Schiff was the ranking Democratic member, on October 16, 2018 – approximately three (3) months after the Aspen Security Forum."

Ex-attorney and convicted perjurer Michael Cohen. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Judicial Watch continued, "The July 2018 contacts between Rep. Schiff and Mr. Simpson create, at a minimum, the appearance of impropriety. As a result of Rep. Schiff’s previously undisclosed, private discussions with Mr. Simpson, the public’s confidence in Mr. Schiff’s ability to objectively and impartially carry out his duties as Committee Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have been gravely damaged."

As for Chariman Schiff's contacts with convicted perjurer Michael Cohen, Judicial Watch said they should be scrutinezed to the same degree as his contact's with Glenn Simpson. 

As Fox News Channel, cited by Judicial Watch, reported on March 8, "President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen told House investigators this week that staff for Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., traveled to New York at least four times to meet with him for over 10 hours immediately before last month’s high-profile public testimony, according to two sources familiar with the matter – as Republicans question whether the meetings amounted to coaching a witness.

"The sources said the sessions covered a slew of topics addressed during the public hearing before the oversight committee – including the National Enquirer ‘s 'Catch and Kill' policy, American Media CEO David Pecker and the alleged undervaluing of President Trump’s assets."

Schiff's conduct "creates the appearance of unethical collusion and synchronization of efforts that calls into question whether Cohen’s testimony was a legitimate congressional hearing or well-rehearsed political theatre," said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, in the letter to the OCE.

During his congressional testimony, Cohen was questioned several times about his contacts with the House Intelligence Committe. Cohen admitted, "I spoke to Mr. Schiff about topics that were going to be raised at the upcoming hearing."

(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In concluding its letter, Judicial Watch stated, "In the least, Rep. Schiff and his staff communications with Glenn Simpson and Michael Cohen, undermine the 'credibility of the House' and its committee proceedings, especially given Mr. Cohen’s subsequent alleged false testimony.

"We call upon the OCE to investigate Rep. Schiff and his previously undisclosed, inappropriate contact with key witnesses in congressional investigation over which that Member holds significant sway."

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