Government secrecy protects sources and methods, but it can also protect liars and conceal abuse of power.
So it’s concerning that Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, has pushed through an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that will conceal evidence related to certain military deployments within the U.S.
Schiff’s amendment states that “any information obtained by or with the assistance of a member of the Armed Forces,” except when specifically authorized, “shall not be received in evidence in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding in or before any court, grand jury, department, officer, agency, regulatory body, legislative committee, or other authority of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision thereof.”
This will stymie future investigations of the decision by congressional leaders to decline the assistance of the National Guard on January 6, as well as the Biden administration’s actions or inactions at the southern border.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, called the amendment “un-American” and said it “will fundamentally and irreparably erode Congress’ constitutional oversight responsibility.”
Schiff first introduced the amendment in 2020 when then-President Donald Trump was talking about sending the U.S. Army to stop the fiery riots in multiple cities. The amendment would have kept any evidence obtained by the military out of criminal court.
Now, however, the intent behind the amendment may be different. A Republican majority is expected to take over the House, and with that majority comes subpoena power.
House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana, accused Democrats of “already trying to tie our hands.”
Charles Stimson, manager of the National Security Law Program at the Heritage Foundation, criticized the amendment as “the opposite” of “good governance and transparency.”
A spokeswoman for Schiff called the amendment’s critics “Republican conspiracy theorists.”
Speaking of conspiracy theories, Adam Schiff is the man who said in March 2017 that he had personally seen “more than circumstantial evidence” that President Trump and his team had colluded with Russians to influence the 2016 election.
That was a lie, but as chairman of the secrecy-shrouded House Intelligence Committee, Schiff was able to continue to repeat this lie for years, intentionally misleading Americans about the then-president of the United States.
In March 2019, when the Department of Justice released a summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report, the nine Republicans who served with Schiff on the intelligence committee signed a letter formally calling for Schiff to step down as chairman.
“Your willingness to continue to promote a demonstrably false narrative is alarming,” they wrote. “The findings of the Special Counsel conclusively refute your past and present assertions and have exposed you as having abused your position to knowingly promote false information, having damaged the integrity of this Committee, and undermined faith in U.S. government institutions.”
The Republicans’ letter slammed Schiff for “repeated public statements, which implied knowledge of classified facts supporting the collusion allegations.” The lawmakers then hinted broadly that these statements “occurred at the same time anonymous leaks of alleged intelligence and law enforcement information were appearing in the media.”
Former congressman Trey Gowdy, who served on the intelligence committee, was less circumspect. He said Adam Schiff leaks “like a screen door on a submarine.”
Schiff did not step down from his position as chairman, and he continues to trade on the secrecy of the intelligence committee to declare in media appearances that he had seen “evidence” of criminal conduct by the former president.
Now that special counsel John Durham has shown that the Russian collusion story was an utterly fictional creation by agents of the Hillary Clinton campaign—who acted through a law firm so their work would be hidden by the secrecy of attorney-client privilege—Schiff has pivoted to claiming he has seen evidence that former President Trump is guilty of crimes in connection with January 6.
“Yes, we will show evidence of the president’s involvement in this scheme” to submit Electoral College ballots from electors in states Trump lost, Schiff told CNN on June 19.
“Just to be clear, you said you have evidence that the then-president was involved in putting a fake slate of electors out there,” said CNN host Dana Bash, “Do you have evidence that he directed it?”
“I don’t want to get ahead of our hearing,” Schiff said.
“Will we see that he directed it?” Bash asked twice more.
“I don’t want to get ahead of what we will show you during the hearing,” Schiff repeated.
Thanks to secrecy, he can do this all day long, teasing and smearing and implying that he knows things he can’t tell.
“I do want to point out,” Schiff continued, “the Justice Department has subpoena power, too. They can convene a grand jury. They can bring in witnesses.…We want them to be successful in bringing people to justice.”
“Well, have you seen evidence that the Justice Department has already opened an investigation into the former president?” Bash asked.
She didn’t get a yes-or-no answer to that question, but this week, Schiff was on MSNBC criticizing Attorney General Merrick Garland for being too slow to take action. “It is unprecedented for Congress to be so far out ahead of the Justice Department in a complex investigation,” he said.
Maybe that’s because the Justice Department sees no crime in the various attempts to offer rival slates of electors.
This week a bipartisan group of U.S. senators will introduce legislation to overhaul the Electoral Count Act of 1887, reportedly to “clarify” the vice president’s role in overseeing the certification of election results. Ambiguity in the 19th-century law was at the heart of the argument over whether Vice President Mike Pence could reject the votes from some states, as President Trump demanded.
We don’t have to get into the weeds to know that they wouldn’t be trying to clarify the law if it was already clear.
Meanwhile, the NDAA has passed the House and now goes to the Senate, where Schiff’s keep-it-secret amendment may or may not survive. It would be better if it didn’t. Let the truth come out.
Write Susan at Susan@SusanShelley.com and follow her on Twitter @Susan_Shelley