House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Republicans are “boycotting” briefings held by the panel.
The California Democrat made the claim Monday during an interview with MSNBC when talking about a planned Trump administration briefing for Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday on alleged Russian bounties to Taliban militants to kill U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan after eight top Republicans were briefed by the White House about the intelligence on Monday.
While stressing that it is important for these types of briefings to be performed on a “bipartisan basis” to ensure neither party is getting a different take from U.S. officials, Schiff noted, “At the moment, the Republicans are boycotting the briefings that we are doing.”
Host Chris Hayes, who appeared to be completely taken aback by the statement, asked Schiff to confirm what he said wasn’t a mistake.
“They have been, yes, and we’re not quite sure why. They don’t have much of an explanation for it,” Schiff said, adding that these are “important” briefings on national security issues, including one coming up this week.
Facing repeated efforts by Hayes for him to explain how a boycott can take place when the GOP has made no demands, Schiff repeated that Republicans have given no reason. But he also conceded, “Now, I saw one of the members try to explain that they don’t think that it’s secure enough, but these briefings are unclassified material. In fact, some of these briefings are open hearings, and they’re still not even attending even the open hearings for the public. So, I’m not sure how to explain it. I think it’s very childish.”
It’s no secret a rift has formed between the parties on the panel ever since President Trump took office, and to this day Republicans say Democrats are mismanaging the committee.
“Republicans believe a committee that handles our nation’s most sensitive secrets should not be conducting its business in open hearings staged in an unsecured manner over the internet,” Jack Langer, the communications director for ranking member Devin Nunes, told the Washington Examiner in response to Schiff’s comments Monday.
The GOP boycott can be traced back to their refusal to attend a subcommittee hearing in February to protest the Democratic-led panel’s refusal to schedule a hearing or briefing on issues they deemed “critical.” They raised concerns of there being “inadequate oversight” of the U.S. intelligence community.
“Until the Committee prioritizes oversight activities related to urgent and critical concerns, Republican Members cannot support distractions from our core responsibilities,” said a letter the GOP members of the panel sent to Schiff at the time.
With Democrats focusing their investigative efforts on Ukraine, which led to an impeachment investigation and later Trump’s acquittal in the Senate, and later the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have prioritized scrutinizing the Russia investigation. Nunes, a California Republican, told Fox Business last week that Republicans have sent “somewhere around 14 criminal referrals” to the Justice Department as part of their inquiry.