Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) misled multiple times when asked about whether he knew about the whistleblower who alleged President Donald Trump had broken the law during a conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. For that, The Washington Post’s fact checker Glenn Kessler awarded him “Four Pinocchios” the highest rating, indicating an outright falsehood.
Schiff had made multiple statements regarding the whistleblower prior to The New York Times and the Post’s reporting that showed the whistleblower “approached a House Intelligence Committee staff member for guidance before filing a complaint with the Intelligence Community inspector general,” Kessler wrote. While the staff member said they only learned the “very bare contours” of the allegation, those “contours” included “potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community,” which, according to Kessler, is code for the president.
Based on this information, Kessler looked at three statements made by Schiff prior to the reporting.
On September 16, Schiff told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he doesn’t “know the identity of the whistleblower” after being asked if he did. But when Cooper asked if the whistleblower or their legal representation had contacted Schiff, the California congressman deflected, saying: “I don’t want to get into any particulars. I want to make sure that there’s nothing that I do that jeopardizes the whistleblower in any way.”
On September 17, Schiff told Sam Stein on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” panel that neither he nor his staff had “spoken directly with the whistleblower.”
“We would like to. But I am sure the whistleblower has concerns that he has not been advised, as the law requires, by the inspector general or the director of national Intelligence just how he is supposed to communicate with Congress, and so the risk to the whistleblower is retaliation,” Schiff said.
As Kessler noted, this “is flat-out false” because we now know Schiff’s committee did speak directly to the whistleblower. A staffer for Schiff told Kessler that Schiff was referring to whether or not the committee had heard “testimony from the whistleblower, which they had not.” Schiff later told The Daily Beast he should have been clearer in his answer.
And on September 19, Schiff told reporters: “In the absence of the actions, and I want to thank the inspector general, in the absence of his actions in coming to our committee, we might not have even known there was a whistleblower complaint alleging an urgent concern.”
Kessler said Schiff was misleading here again because even though he later claimed he didn’t know the whistleblower that came to his committee was the same one we all know now, he gave “no hint that the committee was aware a potentially significant (“privileged”) complaint might have been filed.”
As Kessler concluded:
Schiff on “Morning Joe” clearly made a statement that was false. He now says he’s was answering the wrong question, but if that was the case, he should have quickly corrected the record. He compounded his falsehood by telling reporters a few days later that if not for the IG’s office, the committee would not have known about the complaint. That again suggested there had been no prior communication.
The explanation that Schiff was not sure it was the same whistleblower especially strains credulity.
On Thursday, Kessler also gave Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Four Pinocchios for initially dodging questions on whether he also was present on the Ukraine call with Trump before saying he was on the call.