McCarthy’s planned expulsions of the Intel Democrats cause howls

A promise by the GOP to expel two Democrats from the House Intelligence Committee would dramatically escalate partisan warfare over panel assignments, potentially ending Rep. Adam Schiff’s (California) intelligence career while raising fears that the new majority intends to trample on the rights of minorities.

The promise of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is busy seeking support for the presidency of the new House, would reduce the power of two of the most vocal critics of former President Trump in Schiff and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), like the former president, has launched a re-election bid.

It draws howls of protest from Democrats and also comes as McCarthy promises to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

While the committee was always due to undergo an upheaval next year—the result of routine post-election restructuring—the McCarthy promises, if fulfilled, would represent a much more aggressive move by a new majority to exact revenge on its political opponents.

McCarthy has accused Schiff of lying to the public, both about President Trump’s ties to Moscow and Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine. And he has gone after Swalwell for his ties to a Chinese spy who had targeted California politicians.

“Eric Swalwell cannot get a security clearance in the public sector. Why would we ever give him a security clearance in the secrets to America? So I’m not going to allow him to be at Intel,” McCarthy told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” host Maria Bartiromo.

“You have Adam Schiff, who had lied to the American public time and time again,” McCarthy continued. “Nor will we allow him to be on the Intel committee.”

Omar, a former Somali refugee who is one of three Muslims in Congress, is often critical of the Israeli government on human rights issues. Omar’s detractors, including McCarthy, say her comments have at times crossed the line into anti-Semitism.

The removals, which still require approval by the full House, would mark a sharp escalation in the passionate partisan debate over who controls the levers of power when it comes to committee assignments — and what kind of behavior merits expulsion. Typically, party leaders allocate committee seats to their respective members independently of the opposing party.

That conversation took a violent turn early last year, just after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, when Democrats took the extraordinary step of removing Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a first-time conservative, from her two committee seats. The vote was prompted by revelations that Greene had promoted the execution of leading Democrats—including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.)—in the years before she was elected to Congress.

Democrats have defended the suspensions of Greene and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), who were removed separately from the Oversight and Reform Committee and the Natural Resources Committee, pointed to the extraordinarily violent nature of the actions that prompted them.

Gosar had posted an animated video in which his avatar executes Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.), a prominent liberal, with a sword.

Now, as McCarthy vows to retaliate, they accuse him of promoting false equivalencies simply to trap his political enemies.

“That’s always the concern. It’s the institutional concern that you start to normalize this behavior and that processes were only reserved for the most extreme circumstances,” Tim Bergreen, an attorney who previously served as staff director for the committee’s Democrats, told The Hill.

In this case, he sees the action as being “based on the fact that … you don’t like the two members in question.”

“[Schiff] has tried to conform to the highest traditions of a kind of congressional service. And the same with Swalwell. And that doesn’t mean they don’t fight hard. And that doesn’t mean they don’t get on television and say harsh things about their Republican colleagues,” he said.

“To somehow compare how they behave with people who would basically be happy to burn the institution down without having any reverence. … I just think there’s no comparison,” Bergreen added.

The members themselves seem to take the threat in stride. Swalwell suggested McCarthy’s difficulty securing the GOP support he needs to be speaker could preclude any ouster next year.

“Talk to me if Kevin McCarthy is speaker,” Swalwell said in a statement.

In a Friday appearance on CNN, Swalwell said the move would come “from a place of retribution, not from any substance or merit.”

“He’s doing it because I’m effective. I actually think I held Donald Trump to account when I was on the Judiciary and Intelligence Committee while he was in the White House, and so did Adam Schiff, who he’s also targeting courage,” he added.

“Look, any coach on a Sunday morning on an NFL field would love to take the other team’s best players off the field, and that’s what Kevin McCarthy is trying to do here.”

Schiff also hits back, accusing McCarthy of bowing to the wishes of Greene, a former critic, just to win her support in the chairman’s vote.

“Well, I suppose he’ll do what Marjorie Taylor Greene wants him to do. He’s a very weak leader of this conference, which means he’ll comply with the wishes of the lowest common denominator, and if the lowest common denominator want to remove people from committees, that’s what they’re going to do,” Schiff said Sunday on ABC’s ” This Week program.

For Swalwell, the GOP is focused on his relationship with a woman who was later revealed to be a Chinese spy. Christine Fang targeted a number of Bay Area politicians and helped Swalwell’s re-election campaign in 2014. After a defensive briefing by the FBI in 2015, Swalwell cut ties with Fang. His liaison with her was not reported until five years later.

Mark Zaid, a national security law and clearance expert, suggested stripping Swalwell of the committee post based on the incident would be a partisan move affecting a panel that until recently had been “largely immune to such dangers.”

“Members of Congress are granted access to classified information by virtue of their elected office and are not subject to the investigative or due process system of the Executive Branch,” he said, rejecting McCarthy’s claims that Swalwell would not be able to secure a clearance.

“A credibility determination is based on a set of judgmental guidelines, and it is dangerous, and indeed irresponsible, to assess the potential situation of another member, especially if one lives in a glass house, as so many who serve in Congress likely do .”

For Schiff, McCarthy has accused him of lying in the broader context of the investigation into Trump-Russia ties.

Bergreen pointed to the now-discredited Steele case — named after former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele — that emerged early in the investigation.

“McCarthy says that because Schiff was trying to dig up some of the weed in the Steele dossier, and he would discuss it not only in committee, but when he was asked about it in the press, that somehow made him unfit to hold a committee. chairmanship or even a position on the committee because it turned out that not everything in the Steele dossier was true, which is a standard of idiocy,” he said.

“If that’s the standard, then I guess anybody who was part of the Benghazi witch hunt … I guess they kind of shouldn’t be allowed to serve on a committee,” he added.

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