Earlier this month, Representative Adam Schiff was reported to have doctored a text message between former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Republican representative Jim Jordan in the ongoing investigations of the House January 6 Committee. This report should hardly come as a surprise.
On the House floor, Schiff was confronted by Republican Congressman Jim Comer for peddling the “Russia hoax.” He responded by launching into a tirade of circumstantial evidence that was supposed to prove Trump-Russia collusion. Given Schiff’s most recent ethically questionable choice in the January 6 Commission, it is worth recounting his central role in the collusion investigations.
Schiff was one of the main proponents of the collusion theory from day one. Throughout the 45th president’s tenure, the congressman continuously assured the Trump-deranged media that there was “plenty of evidence” of collusion with Russia hiding “in plain sight”, and that the proof was “more than circumstantial.” Despite substantial evidence to the contrary, he also continued to maintain the legitimacy of the legally abominable FBI application for surveillance warrants on then-Trump aide Carter Paige, one of the main premises justifying the subsequent Mueller investigation.
Schiff was undeterred when House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes released a memo in 2018 that detailed this corrupt FISA process. Nunes, a Republican congressman also from California, presented damning proof that the entire application was largely predicated on the now-debunked dossier by Christopher Steele—in reality, a political operation funded by the Clinton campaign through research firm Fusion GPS. Nunes’ memo was immediately denounced by the entire Democrat establishment as false, and Schiff subsequently responded with a memo of his own. The latter purported to document the errors of its Republican-derived counterpart.
Naturally, the Schiff memo was the story that stuck for the zealots of the Russia collusion cult in Washington and their media enablers; this, despite the fact that DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz would go on to confirm the veracity of the very claims on which Schiff was attempting to cast doubt. The Wall Street Journal previously documented the exact falsehoods in the Schiff memo and the inspector general’s refutations here.
When Schiff was called out by Comer on the House floor, the former launched into a series of “Are you aware?” questions that were ostensibly meant to maintain support for the Trump-Russia thesis (outside of the Steele Dossier). Yet Schiff’s statements are still based on, to use his own words, mere “circumstantial evidence.” It is worth considering Schiff’s reasoning behind each claim:
“Are you aware that the president’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, met with an agent of Russian intelligence and provided Russian intelligence with internal campaign polling data, as well as strategic insights about their intelligence in key battleground states?”
The “agent of Russian intelligence” to whom Schiff is referring here is Manafort’s longtime Ukrainian business associate Konstantin Kilimnik. According to the Washington Times, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s final report on Russian election interference—a more than 900 page report of which Kilimnik and Manafort are central focuses—states that Kilimnik was “a Russian intelligence officer.” Manafort’s lawyer responded to the accusation by claiming that there are classified documents that would, if released, prove this to be false; however, if Kilimnik is indeed a Russian asset as stated by the Senate report, then he “may have been connected to the GRU [Russian state intelligence service]” responsible for hacking into the DNC in 2016.
In the second part of his statement, Schiff refers to Manafort’s providing polling data to Russian intelligence (Kilimnik, on the presumption that he is a Russian agent). The Mueller report had already cast doubt on this being connected to “Russian interference,” however, as the meeting in which this transaction took place is purported to have happened only after the reports of a Russian cyber attack had already been released by the U.S. media. Collusion would thereby be assumed only on the evidence that Manafort had an ongoing relationship with Kilimnik, and must have subsequently known about the latter’s speculative ties with the GRU and its attempt to influence the U.S. election. Circumstantial indeed.
“Are you aware that while the Trump campaign chairman was providing internal polling data, that Kremlin intelligence was leading a clandestine social media campaign to elect Donald Trump?”
In 2020, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report defending a 2017 intelligence community assessment that there was “unprecedented Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.” The report finds that the essential task of the Russian interference was to sow discord in the United States, primarily through social media posts and advertisements that were aimed at denigrating Hillary Clinton and undermining trust in U.S. democracy.
This is in part contrary to the 2018 House Intelligence Committee report, which found that the intelligence community’s assessment on “Putin’s strategic intentions” were insufficient. When viewing the various posts, advertisements, and accounts (examples available for download from the House Report here) attributed to Russian intelligence agents, it is evident that there was a clear intention to sow discord; however, the sheer number of social justice posts related to racial equality and police brutality seem to suggest that the Russian influencers may have sought social tension as the goal in itself, rather than a means to get Trump in particular elected.
Regardless, Schiff’s two statements together allude to the notion that Manafort was giving polling data in battleground states to Kilimnik, ostensibly all in an attempt to then have Russian hackers specifically target voters in politically purple areas.
“I am aware of President Trump’s son meeting secretly in Trump Tower New York with a Russian delegation with the purpose of receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton, which the Russian delegation represented was part of the Russian government’s effort to help elect Donald Trump in 2016.… And when asked about that secret meeting, both the president and his son lied about it.”
Donald Trump Jr. did indeed meet with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. The meeting is reported to have been short and fruitless, with then-candidate Trump having had no knowledge of it. Although this is not illegal, it is ethically questionable, even given the fact that politics is indeed a dirty game; however, it also incidentally sheds light on another strange development in the Trump-Russia saga. Veselnitskaya is documented as having met with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson just hours before the Trump Tower meeting, and then again after. Recall that Fusion GPS is the Clinton-financed firm responsible for compiling the Steele Dossier, seeking to tie Trump to Russia. While Trump Jr. meeting with Veselnitskaya under the pretenses of getting dirt on a political opponent may not be considered honorable (even though that was the very mechanism working against Trump at that exact moment), the surrounding circumstances raise just as many, if not more, questions about Clinton corruption as they do Trump collusion.
Although not mentioned by Schiff in this specific instance, also consider his maintaining the guilt of Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. In another supposed tie between Trump and Russia, Flynn was caught in a carefully set perjury trap arranged by James Comey’s FBI. Comey actually bragged in an open forum about his taking advantage of the hectic Trump transition—which unelected bureaucratic forces and Obama holdovers mobilized to make as difficult as possible—to get agents into the White House and attempt to interrogate various officials, of whom Flynn was foremost.
Schiff is not unique in his views among the Democratic Party or its political allies in relation to the Russia narrative, and no one can question the congressman’s determination in investigating corruption stories related to Trump—regardless of how scant or shoddy the hard evidence that the allegations are based on may be. It is important, however, to consider the circumstances he presents in support of his ongoing belief in collusion, as it is telling of how the congressman treats evidence that is politically inexpedient to his predetermined conclusions. This is relevant given his central position on the House January 6 Committee, and may have very real consequences for the fate of the American citizen’s upon whom the latter’s deliberations are focused.
Dominick Sansone writes on U.S. politics and culture. His work has been published at the Washington Examiner, the Federalist, and The American Conservative. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.