Matt Gaetz asks Ethics Committee to investigate Adam Schiff

Florida Republican, who is under ethics committee scrutiny himself, sees rules violations in impeachment probe

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., is seeking a House Ethics Committee investigation into the handling of the impeachment inquiry by Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Matt Gaetz is asking the House Ethics Committee to open an investigation into Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, alleging House rules were violated in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Gaetz, a Florida Republican and staunch supporter of Trump, wrote to the Ethics Committee Wednesday alleging that Schiff provided the public with a “distorted” and “wildly-inaccurate” characterization of Trump’s July phone call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which he is alleged to have withheld U.S. aid in return for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

Gaetz points to a Sept. 26 hearing where Schiff said Trump’s comments were “like a classic organized crime shakedown.”

[Republican effort to censure Adam Schiff halted]

He says the statement and Schiff’s portrayal of the call appears to violate House Rules because Schiff’s behavior does not “reflect credibly on the House” and does not follow the “spirit and the letter of the Rules of the House.” Further, Gaetz alleges that Schiff lied to the public about the president’s involvement regarding Russian collusion.

Gaetz also cites his attempt Oct. 14 to enter a deposition conducted by the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees and being removed by Schiff.

He says this could have violated House rules, citing Rule XI, clause 2: “A Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may not be excluded from nonparticipatory attendance at a hearing of a committee or subcommittee” unless a House majority vote authorizes closing a committee’s hearings. Gaetz does not serve on any of the above committees, but is on the House Judiciary Committee, which is one of six committees conducting the impeachment inquiry.

Patrick Boland, a spokesman for the Intelligence Committee Democrats, indicated Schiff is not taking Gaetz's complaint seriously.

"We don’t think anyone takes Mr. Gaetz seriously, especially on the subject of ethics," Boland said in an email. 

There is currently an investigative subcommittee of the Ethics Committee looking into a tweet Gaetz sent Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, that appeared to threaten him in relation to his congressional testimony. Although it is uncommon, the investigative subcommittee could lead to a hearing and House floor vote on the matter.

[Gaetz to be investigated by House Ethics for tweet apparently threatening Cohen]

Information offered by a member of the House can be transmitted directly to the House Ethics Committee while public complaints must be signed off by a House lawmaker to be directly accepted by the Ethics Committee.

The chairman, Rep. Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat, and ranking member, Rep. Kenny Marchant, a Texas Republican, have 14 calendar days or five legislative days — whichever is shorter — to determine whether the information meets the requirements of a complaint under the Ethics Committee's rules. If it is properly filed, the committee has 45 days to dispose of the complaint, establish an investigative subcommittee or extend the review for another 45 days. 

The House Ethics Committee did not comment.

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