Schiff asserts privilege over his subpoenas of impeachment phone records

FPI / March 19, 2020

Rep. Adam Schiff and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence which he chairs have asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to dismiss a lawsuit against them for the controversial impeachment-related subpoenas for phone records.

Rep. Adam Schiff. / C-SPAN

During the Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry, Schiff subpoenaed the private phone records of Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow, Rep. Devin Nunes, journalist John Solomon, attorney Victoria Toensing, and other American citizens.

Related: FCC may take action on Schiff’s secret subpoenas of phone records, March 13, 2020

Lawyers for Schiff asserted privilege in seeking to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch under the public’s common-law right of public access to examine government records.

Schiff and the committee are being represented by the Office of General Counsel for the House of Representatives.

In their 14-page motion to dismiss Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, Schiff and the committee claim “sovereign immunity;” “Speech or Debate Clause” privilege; immunity from FOIA and transparency law; that the records are secret; and that Judicial Watch and the public do not need to see them.

“Schiff’s new court filing to try to avoid disclosing his abusive subpoenas of confidential phone records suggests he and Congress can secretly subpoena and publish the phone records of any American with zero accountability under law to the people,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Speaker Pelosi and every House member should be asked if they agree that they are above the law and can spy on any American.”

In the lawsuit, Judicial Watch is seeking all subpoenas issued by Schiff’s committee on or about Sept. 30, 2019 to any telecommunications provider including, but not limited to AT&T, Inc., for all records of telephone calls of any individuals. It also seeks all responses received to the subpoenas.

Schiff is being sued in his capacity as chairman of the committee. The lawsuit states: “The records are of critical public importance as the subpoenas were issued without any lawful basis and violated the rights of numerous private citizens. Disclosure of the requested records would serve the public interest by providing information about the unlawful issuance of the subpoenas. The requested records fall within the scope of the public’s right of access to governmental records as a matter of federal common law.”

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