Adam Bennett Schiff (born 1960)
Early life, education, and career
Schiff was born in Framingham, Massachusetts, the son of Edward and Sherrill Ann (Glovsky) Schiff. He was raised in a Jewish family which moved to Scottsdale, Arizona in 1970 and Alamo, California in 1972. He graduated from Danville's Monte Vista High School in 1978, and was both his class valedictorian and the student voted by his peers as "most likely to succeed". Schiff received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Stanford University in 1982 and a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1985.
After law school, Schiff served as a law clerk for Judge William Matthew Byrne Jr. of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. From 1987 to 1993, he was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Office of the United States Attorney for the Central District. While in this position, Schiff came to public attention when he prosecuted the case against Richard Miller, a former FBI agent who was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union. The first trial resulted in a hung jury; the second trial resulted in a conviction that was overturned on appeal. Miller was convicted in a third trial.
In May 1994, Schiff was a candidate for the 43rd district seat in the California State Assembly in a special election and lost to Republican nominee James E. Rogan. That November, he was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for a full term, again losing to Rogan.
California State Senate
In 1996, Schiff was elected to represent the 21st district in the California State Senate. When his term began, Schiff at age 36 was the Senate's youngest member. During his four year term, Schiff served as chairman of the senate's Judiciary Committee and Select Committee on Juvenile Justice, and the state legislature's Joint Committee on the Arts.
As a state senator, Schiff authored dozens of measures that were enacted into law. These included Senate Bill 1847, Chapter 1021. Passed in 1998, this legislation continued work on the stalled Blue Line light rail extension to Pasadena by renaming the Blue Line as the Gold Line and creating the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority, which separated the project from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The construction authority finished the Pasadena line in 2003 and extended it to Azusa in 2016. A subsequent third leg was begun, which is intended to extend the line to Pomona by 2025. Schiff's work to re-energize the project caused him to be regarded in the San Gabriel Valley as the "Father of the Gold Line".
U.S. House of Representatives
In 2000, Schiff was the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives in California's 27th congressional district. On November 7, 2000, Schiff defeated Republican incumbent James E. Rogan, and he began serving his first term on January 3, 2001. He was reelected every two years from 2002 to 2018, and began serving his 10th term in Congress in January 2019.
2003 invasion of Iraq
Schiff voted in favor of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In February 2015, discussing how or whether to tailor Bush-era plans from 2001 and 2002 to fight ISIS, Schiff was asked if he regretted voting to invade. He said, "Absolutely. Unfortunately, our intelligence was dead wrong on that, on Saddam at that time. The vote set in motion a cascading series of events which have [had] disastrous consequences".
Schiff at the United States Capitol during the 115th congress
US congressional delegation at Halifax International Security Forum 2014
Armenian genocide resolution
Schiff has been a leading voice in Armenian-American issues; he claims to have over 70,000 Armenian-Americans in his district. He introduced U.S. House Resolution 106, recognizing the Armenian genocide, which was approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on October 11, 2007, but began to lose support after Turkey's prime minister said that approval of the resolution would endanger U.S.-Turkey relations. On March 4, 2010, the resolution was again approved to go forward by the House Foreign Affairs Committee by a 23–22 margin. Immediately, the Turkish government recalled its U.S. ambassador. Schiff said in 2007, "When you think about what we have against us – the president, a foreign policy establishment that has condoned this campaign of denial, the Turkish lobby – against that you have the truth, which is a powerful thing but doesn't always win out". On October 29, 2019, the full House of Representatives finally passed the resolution by a vote of 405–11.
Beginning with Rep. Howard Berman before Berman was defeated for reelection, Schiff has worked on reducing unwanted helicopter noise across Los Angeles County by proposing legislation to force the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to study and regulate helicopter noise in Los Angeles, the Helicopter Noise Relief Act. After reintroducing his legislation, Schiff worked with Senator Dianne Feinstein to push the FAA to act, and together they attached a provision in the 2014 omnibus appropriations package directing the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and FAA to address helicopter noise in Los Angeles County skies. As a result, in 2015 the FAA created a county-wide helicopter noise public complaint system, the first step towards regulation.
Intelligence and surveillance reform
Schiff has been a prominent supporter of surveillance reforms, especially in the wake of the leaks of classified intelligence by Edward Snowden. In 2007, in response to disclosure of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, Schiff and Rep. Jeff Flake offered a successful amendment in the House of Representatives to clarify that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is the exclusive means for collecting foreign intelligence information within the United States. Schiff has been a critic of the bulk collection of telephone metadata by the National Security Agency. In January 2014, Schiff introduced the Telephone Metadata Reform Act, which would prohibit the bulk collection of domestic phone records. Schiff has also introduced several bills aimed at reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, including a bill to require outside counsel to be appointed to argue for privacy and civil liberties protections in certain cases before the Court.
Investigation of Benghazi attack
Schiff was appointed to the House Select Committee on Benghazi in 2014 by Nancy Pelosi to serve as one of the five Democrats on the Committee. Schiff had participated in the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence investigation into the attacks on the Benghazi diplomatic compound, which found that the initial talking points provided by the intelligence community were flawed but without an intention to deceive, and that diplomatic facilities across the world lacked adequate security. The report's findings were unanimous and bipartisan. Before he was appointed as a Member of the Benghazi Select Committee, Schiff called the establishment of a select committee to investigate the 2012 attack a "colossal waste of time," and said Democratic leaders should not appoint any members, stating: "I think it's just a tremendous red herring and a waste of taxpayer resources". Despite those reservations, he still accepted an appointment to the Committee because if he felt he "could add value, [he] would serve".
Schiff formed the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Caucus for the Freedom of the Press in 2006 aimed at advancing press freedom around the world. The Caucus proposed the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act and it was originally introduced to Congress by Schiff and Rep. Mike Pence (R., Ind.) and by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.) on October 1, 2009, in response to the murder of Daniel Pearl by terrorists in Pakistan. The legislation requires the United States Department of State to expand its scrutiny of news media intimidation and freedom of the press restrictions during its annual report on human rights in each country. After its introduction, the act passed through the House of Representatives with a vote of 403 to 12 and passed unanimously in the Senate; however, a provision requiring the Secretary of State (in coordination with the Department of State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and in consultation with the Undersecretary for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy) to establish a grant program aiming to promote freedom of the press worldwide was removed in the Senate. On May 17, 2010, President Barack Obama, accompanied by the Pearl family, signed into law the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act.
Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen
In 2015, Schiff supported the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, saying: "The military action by Saudi Arabia and its partners was necessitated by the illegal action of the Houthi rebels and their Iranian backers. ... But ultimately, a negotiated end to this crisis is the only way to restore order in Yemen and shrink the space for terrorism".
War authorization reform and authorization against ISIS
After the President's speech at the National Defense University examining the U.S. war powers during the War on Terror, Schiff introduced bipartisan legislation to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, the legislation passed in the days after the September 11 attacks to combat al-Qaeda, because he felt that "the current AUMF is outdated and straining at the edges to justify the use of force outside the war theater". The bill, introduced with Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL), was intended to sunset. In addition to his legislation, Schiff has been a forceful proponent of debating and voting on a new war authorization against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Comments on Trump–Russia collusion investigation
Further information: Special Counsel investigation (2017–2019)
On March 22, 2017, in an interview with Chuck Todd on MSNBC Schiff claimed there was “more than circumstantial evidence now” that Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Russia. Todd followed up by asking if he had seen direct evidence of collusion and Schiff responded that there was "evidence that is not circumstantial and is very much worthy of investigation".
On April 2, 2017, Schiff, the ranking member on the House Select Intelligence Committee, which is tasked with conducting inquiries related to Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, appeared on CNN's State of the Union. In the wide-ranging interview, Schiff and host Jake Tapper discussed Michael Flynn's request for immunity, Schiff's and Devin Nunes's separate inspections of White House documents, Trump's allegations of wiretapping in Trump Tower, and Nunes's apparent close association with the Trump White House. Tapper asked Schiff if there was evidence of Donald Trump–Russia collusion. Schiff replied: "I don't think we can say anything definitively at this point. We are still at the very early stage of the investigation. The only thing I can say is that it would be irresponsible for us not to get to the bottom of this". Tapper asked, "Do you think that Chairman Nunes was part of an attempt to provide some sort of cover for the president's claim about Obama wiretapping him at Trump Tower, which, obviously, this does not prove, but to cover for that, or an attempt to distract, as you're suggesting?" Schiff replied, "It certainly is an attempt to distract and to hide the origin of the materials, to hide the White House hand. The question is, of course, why? And I think the answer to the question is this effort to point the Congress in other directions, basically say, don't look at me, don't look at Russia, there is nothing to see here". A few days later, Nunes recused himself as leader of the investigative panel while the House Committee on Ethics investigated whether he had disclosed classified information.
On July 23, 2017, on "Meet the Press", Schiff stated, "[A]t the end of the day we need to make sure that our president is operating not in his personal best interests and not because he's worried about what the Russians might have but because what he is doing is in America's best interest. The fact that we have questions about this is in itself harmful". The following morning on Twitter, Trump referred to Schiff as "Sleazy Adam Schiff, the totally biased Congressman looking into 'Russia'" and called the Russian collusion investigation "the Dem loss excuse". Schiff responded on Twitter that the president's "comments and actions are beneath the dignity of the office".
In December 2018 Schiff suggested that Trump associate Roger Stone may have lied to Congress, and said the transcript of his testimony should be forwarded to the Special Counsel. Stone hit back, saying Schiff was "a con man." In November 2019 Stone was convicted of lying to Congress.
When he became the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in 2019, Schiff took a personal mission to investigate Trump's connections to Russia, separate from the investigation by the Special Counsel. Schiff came under fire when he demurred when asked if he would accept it if the Special Counsel's investigation concluded that Donald Trump did not collude with Russia, saying that he has great confidence in Mueller but that "there may be, for example, evidence of collusion or conspiracy that is clear and convincing, but not proof beyond a reasonable doubt," as is needed for a criminal conviction.
On March 28, 2019, the nine Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee officially called for Schiff to resign due to his allegations that President Trump's campaign colluded with Russians in the 2016 election. Schiff responded by accusing the Republican members of tolerating "immoral" and "corrupt" conduct by Trump campaign members and administration appointees.
Schiff called North Korea "one of the most brutal and despotic regimes in the world". After the death of American student Otto Warmbier who had been imprisoned during a visit to North Korea, Schiff said: "The barbaric treatment of Otto Warmbier by the North Korean regime amounts to the murder of a U.S. citizen".
In April 2018, asked whether he thought Trump deserved at least partial credit for North Korea's involvement in talks with the US, Schiff responded: "I think it's more than fair to say that the combination of the president's unpredictability and indeed, his bellicosity had something to do with the North Koreans deciding to come to the negotiating table".
Israel and anti-Semitism
Schiff is a supporter of Israel. In December 2016, Schiff urged President Obama to veto UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories as a violation of international law.
In February 2019, Representative Ilhan Omar tweeted, "It's all about the Benjamins baby" in reference to American politicians' support for Israel and invoked the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). It received widespread bipartisan condemnation, including from many Democratic leaders as well as Schiff, for implying that lobby money was fueling American politicians' support of Israel. Schiff said it was "never acceptable to give voice to, or repeat, anti-Semitic smears". However, his party stopped short of a resolution specifically condemning anti-Semitism in response, proposing a motion condemning "all discriminatory remarks" to not offend Omar and her fellow Muslim-American congresswoman.
Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
After news reports that the CIA concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump said there was insufficient CIA evidence to link bin Salman to the murder. Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, was briefed by the CIA on the agency assessment, and stated afterwards that Trump was being dishonest about the CIA findings.
Impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump
Main article: Impeachment trial of Donald Trump