The seizure of phone records by Adam Schiff might have angered some Republicans even more than the impeachment process it was supposed to advance. GOP members in both the House and Senate have been expressing outrage for days over Schiff’s actions, perhaps none more than Sen. Rand Paul. He wrote a blistering op-ed over Schiff’s actions on Friday, calling the seizure of records from fellow members of Congress and journalists “brazen and shameful.”
In that op-ed, Paul laid some of the blame on Congress itself:
Partisanship is bad enough. But trampling rights and norms of conduct in investigations is worse, and that’s why Schiff should be formally censured by the House for his actions.
Part of the problem lies with Congress writing its own rules for subpoenas and investigations, without any thought of due process.
For example, when someone attempts to get an attorney’s records in a judicial proceeding, he or she has to show why and must prove it to a court, and then a special judge is appointed to assist with the review. Care is taken. Attorney-client privilege is assumed unless there is evidence of a crime by the attorney. That didn’t happen here because Congress and Schiff don’t think they need to follow this standard.
Paul, still angry over Schiff’s seizure, told reporters that he plans to fix that issue by forcing new rules in Congress to match due-process standards elsewhere. Congress should abide by the rules under which all other investigators are governed, and that means more checks on who seizes communications records. And Paul chided journalists for not caring more about an issue that directly impacts them:
Paul told reporters on Monday evening that he is working on revisions to committee rules because “nobody should get your phone records. This is a big deal, this is a huge deal.” The Kentucky Republican also gently scolded journalists for not rebelling against Schiff, arguing it would be easy enough to subpoena suspected journalists’ sources to sweep up their call info.
“There hasn’t been enough calls from some of you people about protecting your own,” Paul told a handful of reporters. “Congress has no rules … it’s not illegal for Adam Schiff to do this. It’s highly immoral or unfair for him to do it. No one else has ever done it to another member or a journalist. I think we need to change the rules.”
The target of Schiff’s snooping, John Solomon, hast to also wonder why the rest of the media has sloughed it off. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Solomon warns that while the mainstream media likes to hyperventilate about Donald Trump being a threat to journalistic freedom, Schiff is the real deal:
Mr. Schiff’s actions in obtaining and publicizing private phone records trampled the attorney-client privilege of Mr. Trump and his lawyers. It intruded on my First Amendment rights to interview and contact figures like Mr. Giuliani and the Ukrainian-American businessman Lev Parnas without fear of having the dates, times and length of private conversation disclosed to the public.
Contrary to Mr. Schiff’s defense that he was simply serving the investigative interest of Congress, the release of the phone records served much more to punish people whose work Mr. Schiff found antagonistic than to fulfill an oversight purpose. And it served Congress poorly because it spread false insinuations. Mr. Schiff’s report suggested, for instance, that Mr. Giuliani called the White House to talk to the Office of Management and Budget, implying he might have been trying to help Mr. Trump withhold aid to Ukraine as Democrats allege. The White House says that claim is wrong; the number was a generic phone entry point and no one in OMB talked to Mr. Giuliani.
Likewise, Mr. Schiff published call records between Mr. Giuliani and me and suggested they involved my Ukraine stories. Many contacts I had with Mr. Giuliani involved interviews on the Mueller report and its aftermath or efforts to invite the president’s lawyer on the Hill’s TV show, which I supervised.
Mr. Schiff’s team has tried to minimize the conduct because he never subpoenaed my phone records directly but extracted them from others’ call records. That defense is laughable. Once a journalist and his calls are made public through the powers of the surveillance state, there is an instant chilling effect on press freedom.
It’s interesting — and instructive — to see the two sides of the aisle largely switch on this issue. Republicans and conservatives have argued in the past to use such tactics to pursue leakers through the reporters that publish the information, at least when GOP administrations do it, with Democrats insisting on defending the absolute right to protect sources. When it happened to James Rosen, both sides changed places. For the last three years, the media has been almost in constant histrionics over the Trump administration’s bullying of the media and supposed “whistleblowers,” but when Schiff tries to blow the cover on Solomon’s contacts, there’s nary a peep to be heard.
At least Rand Paul has been relatively consistent on this point, thanks to his more libertarian grounding. That makes him a very good point person to demand changes and checks on these efforts in the future, but it’s unclear just how effective he’ll be. Paul isn’t exactly in with the in crowd among Senate Republicans, and the Senate doesn’t have anything to do with House rules. That will have to get taken up the next time Republicans control the lower chamber … assuming they’re more interested in reform than revenge.
By the way, Paul has a prediction for impeachment:
Turning to the Senate, the Kentucky Republican said, “Right now I think every Republican votes against impeachment and I think that there’s a possibility of two Democrats voting against impeachment.”
He did not name the Democrats, but reports have pointed to West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema.
What about Doug Jones? That may be who Paul is considering, but imagine what will happen if three Democrats cross over to oppose impeachment. That would leave Schiff with egg all over his face.