Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) scolded House Intelligence Committee Democrat counsel Daniel Goldman on Monday for the questionable tactics used by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) in snooping in, and publishing, private phone records in his impeachment report.
Within the 300-page report, Schiff included phone logs purporting to show logs of phone conversations involving Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA), investigative journalist John Solomon, and presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani, among others. The phone records were included to suggest that all had been involved in a conspiracy with President Donald Trump to smear U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
Nunes, denying the allegations, said that Schiff had violated his civil rights and vowed to take legal action. The logs had been obtained through subpoenas to AT&T for numbers that Nunes did not recognize when shown the subpoena. Those logs were then used to identify Nunes and others — though the White House said that Schiff’s report mis-identified a number as belonging to the Office of Management and Budget.
Goldman, appearing before the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry hearing to present Schiff’s report, faced questions from Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-GA) about whether he or Schiff had decided to cross-check the phone numbers for specific names, and who made the decision to publish the phone logs. Goldman declined to answer.House Judiciary Committee
Sensenbrenner then weighed in:
There’s two issues involved. One that is not involved is the legality of the subpoena. I believe that was a subpoena that is fully authorized under the law and under congressional procedures. Where I do have a problem and a really big problem, however, is the fact that somebody made a decision to match certain data, megadata, metadata that had been collected through the subpoena with phone numbers of journalists and members of Congress. That is the beginning of a surveillance state which, I think, is outrageous,particularly since, with the Freedom Act in 2013, we curtailed the NSA’s ability about that. Now, had Chairman Schiff decided to “man up and come here and talk rather than hiding behind Mr. Goldman, his chief investigator, as his surrogate or legate, if you will, I think we could have gotten to the bottom of this and taken action to make sure that this never happens again. You know, I do not want to see members of Congress, through their subpoena power, being able to subpoena the telephone records of private citizens, willy-nilly, without any kind of cause or to match the numbers up with somebody else to see who they were talking to, and then going the next step and publishing the results of that match in a report that the minority hadn’t seen until it was released. That, I think, is an abuse of power. We’re talking a lot about abuses of power here in the White House and in the executive branch. Here we see a clear abuse of power on the part of the people who are prosecuting this impeachment against the President of the United States. They should be ashamed of themselves. Now, I come from the state where Joe McCarthy came from. I met Joe McCarthy twice when I was first getting into politics as a teenager. Folks, you have made Joe McCarthy look like a piker, with what you’ve done with the electronic surveillance involved. It is something that has to be put a stop to now, it is something that has to be ‘fessed up to now, whether it’s you, Mr. Goldman, that authorized the matching and the publication, or whether it was Chairman Schiff. I would have loved to put Chairman Schiff under oath so that he could be required to answer the same way you have, Mr. Goldman, on how this all happened. But, as one who has spent quite a bit of time curtailing the excesses of the Patriot Act — which I authored — with the Freedom Act — which I also authored — you know, the surveillance state can get out of control. This is a major step in the surveillance state getting out of control in the hands of the Congress, and in the hands of a majority party that wants to influence political decisions relative to politicians, in this case, President Donald Trump, that they don’t like. And they haven’t liked him from the beginning of his term, they have tried to talk about impeachment since the beginning of his term. They thought that the Mueller report was going to be the smoking gun. It ended up being a cap pistol. Now they’re working on this. And the steps that they have gone, violation of common sense, the precedent that they have started, and looking at the way the chairman has conducted this hearing today and in the previous hearings, not even to allow Mr. Gaetz gets to make a point of order, that he can’t even see what you put on the screen goes against the entire fabric of American democracy. Shame on those who have done it, and if we want to get back to something objective, maybe it’s time to push the reset button.
Sensenbrenner was referring to an earlier point of order raised by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who complained that he could not see a slide presented by Judiciary Committee counsel Barry Berke, and was initially ignored.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.