Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, crossed the line from scrutiny of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election into scrutiny of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy on Wednesday, when he appeared on CNN to blast Trump for a supposed “second meeting” with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Hamburg last week.
“I don’t think there’s anything normal about the president having an hour-long meeting with Vladimir Putin outside the presence of any American witness, anyone on his staff, any high-ranking National Security Council people, to know what the president said, what the president represented,” Schiff told CNN.
“I would like to know — I think most Americans would — did the president raise the issue of the sanctions that Putin wants to do away with?” he continued.
Schiff called the Trump-Putin chat a meeting of “the most isolated leader with the second-most-isolated leader. He said it was “deeply” troubling that the meeting took place “without being witnessed by any of our security officials.”
(The White House house dismissed media reports of a supposedly undisclosed “second meeting” on Tuesday: “There was no ‘second meeting’ between President Trump and President Putin, just a brief conversation at the end of a dinner. The insinuation that the White House has tried to “hide” a second meeting is false, malicious and absurd,” it said in a statement to the press.)
With his demand that any conversation between Trump and Putin be “witnessed” by others, Schiff has arguably gone from probing foreign espionage to arguing, in effect, for domestic espionage against the president. The president is under no obligation to include any official “witness” on any conversation with a foreign leader.
In addition, since President Trump took office, many of his conversations with foreign leaders, where “witnesses” were present, were leaked to the press. Schiff has shown little interest in probing those leaks of highly classified communications, and many of his fellow Democrats have been actively encouraging leakers to contact the media.
By trying to extend the inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 elections into the conduct of foreign policy since the election, Schiff exposes his core interest, which is political, and has little to do with national security.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.