Republicans were shocked, then angered to realize that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff ‘s 300-page impeachment report, released on Tuesday, contained phone records he obtained that included conversations involving ranking Republican committee member Devin Nunes (R-CA), journalist John Solomon, a vocal critic of impeachment, and several others.
Nunes says he is now considering taking legal action in response to Schiff’s secret, unilateral “spying” on members of Congress — and he may have good reason. Citing former attorney general Michael Mukasey, Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel notes that Schiff’s phone records subpoena may have been illegal, as well.
Also from my column: Constitutional lawyer David Rivkin makes the case that Schiff has opened himself up lawsuits from targets of these subpoenas.
— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) December 6, 2019
How is this legal?
Schiff “trampled law and responsibility” in subpoenaing AT&T for the records and obtaining them without permission from the parties involved, Strassel wrote in the Thursday op-ed.
“Federal law bars phone carriers from handing over records without an individual’s agreement” with some exceptions for law enforcement, Strassel wrote. Even if Democrats argue that the impeachment inquiry represents law enforcement, Schiff filed the subpoenas on September 30, a full month before the inquiry was formalized by the House.
“Mr. Schiff claims the ignominious distinction of being the first congressman to use his official powers to spy on a fellow member and publish the details,” Strassel noted, adding that the press is also under attack from his tactics.
“If you think politics is ugly now, imagine a world in which congressional partisans routinely track and expose the call lists of their political rivals and disfavored media,” she continued.
“Disgraceful breach of legal and ethical propriety”
Schiff may also have violated attorney-client privilege and may have made himself privy to some of Trump’s legal strategy by looking at the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani’s phone records — and that is not allowed in any court proceeding because of the unfair advantage it gives.
Strassel cited constitutional lawyer David Rivkin, who said that Nunes, Giuliani, Solomon, and others may have a case to sue Schiff under state law for invasion of privacy or intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Let’s hope they do — the overreach of Democrats in this impeachment process has been unprecedented and needs to be checked.
As Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) pointed out, in his report accusing President Donald Trump of abusing his power to get dirt on his political opponents, it seems that Schiff has done exactly the same thing.
Adding insult to injury, the White House said that Schiff also appears to have misidentified one of the phone numbers as the Office of Management and Budget, then made key accusations based on this mistake.
Under the pressure to prove his case against Trump, he’s now making sloppy mistakes on top of everything else. He needs to be held accountable for his actions and correct the record. Surely Democrats don’t want to further destroy their credibility as they go forward with impeaching Trump.