Former Trump administration State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus clearly made House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff uncomfortable when she pressed him on Tuesday about his promotion of the debunked Steele dossier.
Last week, special counsel John Durham charged Igor Danchenko with five counts of lying to the FBI.
Danchenko is a Russian national who worked at the liberal Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., and is believed to be a primary source of information contained in the infamous anti-Trump dossier compiled by former British intelligence agent Michael Steele.
That document was paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee and was used to help launch the Russia probe in search of ties between the 2016 Donald Trump presidential campaign and Russia.
Ortagus, who was a guest-hosting ABC’s “The View” on Tuesday, questioned Schiff about his promotion of the Steele dossier and the false narrative underlying it.
“You’ve been really prolific over the past few years being the head of the Intel Committee. You defended, promoted, you even read into the Congressional Record the Steele dossier,” Ortagus said.
“And we know last week the main source of the dossier was indicted by the FBI for lying about most of the key claims in that dossier. Do you have any reflections on your role in promoting this to the American people?” she asked.
Schiff first responded in a reasonable fashion, saying any who lied to the FBI should be prosecuted.
He then defended his conduct.
“We couldn’t have known, for example, people were lying to Christopher Steele. So it was proper to investigate them,” Schiff said.
The congressman added that one benefit of the investigation was learning that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had given polling data to Russian intelligence.
Schiff was playing pretty fast and loose with the facts.
According to The Associated Press, Manafort gave polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian and Ukrainian political consultant, who allegedly passed it along to Russian intelligence.
“But Mueller’s team said it couldn’t ‘reliably determine’ Manafort’s purpose in sharing it, nor assess what Kilimnik may have done with it,” the AP reported.
That sort of exaggeration by Schiff was typical throughout the Russia probe.
Ortagus reminded Schiff that Manafort was removed from the campaign in the summer of 2016 when questions arose regarding his past lobbying work for pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs.
Further, it should be noted that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, though filled with Democratic investigators, “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated” with Russia, according to the Justice Department’s Mueller report.
Ortagus then brought the conversation back to Schiff’s role in promoting the whole collusion false narrative and the dossier.
“You may have helped spread Russian disinformation yourself for years by promoting this. I think that’s what Republicans and what people who entrusted you as the Intel Committee chair are so confused about your culpability in all of this,” Ortagus said.
“Well, I completely disagree with your premise,” Schiff responded. “It’s one thing to say allegations should be investigated, and they were. It’s another to say that we should have foreseen in advance that some people were lying to Christopher Steele, which is impossible of course to do.”
The Californian sells himself short. He was constantly out in front of the cameras claiming he was privy to intelligence that he could not share with the public validating the collusion charge.
For example in March 2017, NBC “Meet The Press” host Chuck Todd asked Schiff if there was anything beyond circumstantial evidence suggesting the Trump campaign’s connection to Russia.
“I can tell you that the case is more than that and I can’t go into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now,” Schiff said.
Further questioned whether he had seen direct evidence, the representative responded, “I don’t want to get into specifics but I will say that there is evidence that is not circumstantial and is very much worthy of an investigation.”
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) March 22, 2017
Despite making claims like that for many months, Schiff never came forward with such evidence, even after Mueller issued his report.
On Tuesday’s showing of “The View,” the Democrat pivoted away from discussing the dossier to raising the issue of the 2019 House Democratic impeachment of Trump and the Capitol incursion to prove investigating him was justified.
You’ll recall it was during the impeachment hearing that Schiff famously made up his own fanciful version of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to build his case that the American leader conducted a shakedown to secure an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden’s shady dealings in Ukraine.
This performance was even after Zelensky himself said he felt no pressure from Trump’s call and his country launched no investigation into the Bidens.
Schiff told Ortagus, “None of that is undercut. None of that serious misconduct is in any way diminished by the fact that people lied to Christopher Steele.”
“No. I think just your credibility is,” Ortagus shot back.
Schiff then opted for the verbal attack of a schoolboy, saying, “I think the credibility of your question is in doubt.”
Having boasted about so much with so little pushback from the media, it was refreshing to see his feet actually held to the fire for once.