Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., should step aside from his leadership role in the panel's Russia inquiry.
Schiff has spearheaded the Democratic opposition to the Republican memo from the committee, released to the public last week, which details allegations of surveillance abuse by the U.S. government.
Gaetz says the California Democrat should back away because he allegedly sought damaging information about President Trump from what he thought was a Ukrainian politician and because he appeared on Kremlin-funded RT back in 2013.
"Here you've got Adam Schiff engaging with Ukrainians trying to dig up dirt on the president with seemingly no interest in whether or not the information is true or false or doctored," Gaetz told Fox News' Tucker Carlson on Wednesday. "If you use the same standard applied that's been applied to Republicans to Adam Schiff he should have no role on the intelligence committee as a lead on this issue."
He was referring to a report this week from the Atlantic that said Schiff received a prank call from Russian comedians, posing as Ukrainian politician Andriy Parubiy, who offered potentially explosive information about Trump’s visit to Russia during the Miss Universe pageant in 2013. Though Schiff’s office claims it suspected the April 2017 call was fake and contacted the appropriate authorities, the Daily Mail reported that a member of Schiff’s staff continued correspondence with the pranksters via email, seeking the damaging material on Trump.
Gaetz also said that "the fact that he goes on Russia Today, the Russian-sponsored television channel, to talk about our intelligence system certainly indicates that Adam Schiff should step aside."
.@RepMattGaetz: "@RepAdamSchiff has gone from someone with oversight responsibilities to an actual principal in this investigation...For better objectivity, he ought to step aside." #Tucker https://t.co/6dGH5S9fQL pic.twitter.com/fVsss2GMu2— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 8, 2018
Though Schiff has seen his political star rise in recent months — with his clashes with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and his pointed criticism of President Trump — he has also toed the line of impropriety, possibly putting classified information in a press release about the GOP memo. In addition, he has evoked the ire of Trump, who recently called him "Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington."
Gaetz, who was a leading figure in the #ReleaseTheMemo campaign, said Schiff's credibility has "eroded" and mocked the congressman for espousing scaremongering tactics to stop the release of the GOP memo. Gaetz is not a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
"I mean, it was only a few weeks ago Adam Schiff was saying if we released the Devin Nunes memo there would be a national security catastrophe. That's been proven to be false," Gaetz said.
Schiff and his fellow Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have devised a rebuttal memo to the GOP document, which they say provides much-needed context to the misleading assertions by Nunes and staff, which has been approved for public release and now awaits Trump's consent.
Schiff has also called for Nunes to "step aside" from the committee's Russia probe.