There may be a lot of questions still in the minds of voters as to what the next step is after delivering Democrats a massive victory in this year’s midterm election — a victory that seems to be stretching well into the month with surprising and favorable turnouts from districts that took longer to count and recounts that returned more Democratic wins — but at least one member of Congress has been unambiguous about his plans come January when the new majority is seated in the House of Representatives.
Rep. Adam Schiff will take over as the chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence — the panel in Congress that uses America’s surveillance and intelligence platforms to conduct its business and as the basis for evidence in its hearings. As chair, Schiff will have access to FBI, CIA, NSA, and NRO files, as well as those of the Departments of Justice, State, Homeland Security, Defense, Energy, and Treasury.
In short, if you’ve followed the public disagreements between Schiff and Donald Trump as they’ve played out in newspapers and on social media, you know that Trump is — if you’ll pardon the phrase — royally f*cked.
Now Schiff tells the Washington Post in a new interview that they’re not just going to focus on emoluments and tax returns and investigations that might seem frivolous to the average American (though none of that is frivolous), but rather on the meat-and-potatoes type of “deep dive” that everyone has known was necessary since day one with the first President to ever be elected as a brand rather than a person.
Specifically, Schiff will direct the Committee’s focus to the October murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was slain by Saudi intelligence forces at the direction of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — who Trump refuses to condemn, despite the findings of American intelligence that the Prince is responsible.
Trump has punted when reporters have asked him about his position that trade relations with the Saudis are more important than human rights, and even publicly cast doubt on his own CIA’s findings in the case, often seeming to exonerate the Prince from any wrongdoing by reiterating Saudi Arabia’s official position that they know nothing and also that Khashoggi was an “enemy of the kingdom.”
But Schiff told the Post that the House will definitely investigate:
Certainly we will be delving further into the murder of Khashoggi, and I want to make sure that the committee is fully debriefed on it. We will certainly want to examine what the intelligence community knows about the murder … Then it will be quite clear whether the president is relying on the intelligence community and our best source of information or whether the president is representing something very different.”
Long-standing ties to Saudi Arabia have been part of Trump’s stock in trade, with potential conflicts of interest left and right: Saudis buy his properties, fill apartments in his Trump Tower, and the uncle of the slain journalist — a notorious arms dealer who was at the time the biggest in the world — even sold Trump a yacht three decades ago.
It will be interesting to see how uncomfortable Trump gets when it turns out that the tax returns he has steadfastly refused to release show not only more dealings with Russia than he has ever admitted to, but possibly the reasons why he is taking the side of an undemocratic foreign government over his own intelligence agencies in such a high profile murder case.
Featured image via screen capture