Utah’s Chris Stewart joins Republicans to call for Democratic House Intel chairman to step down

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) Rep. Chris Stewart won the Republican nomination for re-election at the state Republican Convention, April 21, 2018. A member of the House Intelligence Committee, Stewart has joined other Republicans on the panel to call for Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff to step down from the top spot.

Washington • Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah joined fellow Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee to urge the panel's chairman, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, to step down from his post because of his previous – and continued – arguments that President Donald Trump is steeped in ethical and possibly treasonous actions.

Schiff, of California, says there is “more than circumstantial” evidence that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election even after Attorney General William Barr offered a summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation concluding that there was no proof of collusion.

“Chairman Schiff’s actions are unbecoming as chairman and he risks permanently damaging our crucial role in overseeing the intelligence work of the United States,” Stewart said in a statement. “You can’t say that [President Trump] has committed treason, and say ‘but we’re OK with that, we’ll allow him to stay in office’. It isn’t one or the other. And for these reasons I call on Mr. Schiff to step down as chairman.”

The Utah congressman did not seem as concerned with establishing proof before lobbing accusations earlier this week when he tweeted that “the corruption of former leadership of FBI/DOJ/CIA is astounding. It will take yrs for agencies to rebuild reputations. How were such political hacks elevated to these positions.”

The tweet was responding to fired FBI Director James Comey’s comment that many questions remained after the Barr summary was released. Stewart also suggested that a second special counsel be appointed to probe the former intelligence officials.

Stewart and his eight fellow Republicans on the intelligence committee said Schiff needs to leave his post leading the panel but stopped short of saying he should resign from office.

Your actions both past and present are incompatible with your duty as chairman of this committee, which alone in the House of Representatives has the obligation and authority to provide effective oversight of the U.S. intelligence community,” the letter from the Republicans said. “As such, we have no faith in your ability to discharge your duties in a manner consistent with your constitutional responsibility and urge your immediate resignation as chairman of this committee.”

While Barr has summarized Mueller’s report in four pages delivered to Congress, it appears Mueller and his team actually penned more than 300 pages about the nearly two year investigation. Democrats have demanded the full report be publicly released, though it’s unclear if, or when, that will happen.

Schiff, who has been a dogged critic of the president, says the Intelligence Committee will continue to probe Trump and isn't backing down. He noted that there's clear proof that the Trump team was willing to entertain accepting “dirt” from a Russian operative.

“I don’t think it’s OK. I think It’s immoral, I think it’s unethical, I think it’s unpatriotic, and yes, I think it’s corrupt, and evidence of collusion,” Schiff said. “I do not think that conduct, criminal or not, is OK. And the day we do think that’s OK, is the day we look back and say that is the day America lost its way.”

The calls for Schiff to step down come almost exactly two years after then-House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., recused himself from the panel’s Russia investigation after an uproar because he was found sharing surveillance information with President Trump. Utah’s Stewart was among Nunes’ most vocal defenders.

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