Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-California) has blocked the appointment of two Democrats to the House Intelligence Committee in accordance with demands from several far right lawmakers.
Earlier this week, Democratic House leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York) nominated Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both Democrats from California, to serve on the Intelligence Committee they had served on over the past two congressional terms. But McCarthy, in a letter to Jeffries that he shared on Twitter, said that he would be denying their placements.
“I appreciate the loyalty you have to your Democrat [sic] colleagues … But I cannot put partisan loyalty ahead of national security, and I cannot simply recognize years of service as the sole criteria for membership on this essential committee. Integrity matters more,” McCarthy wrote in the letter.
The Speaker didn’t specify why he was blocking Schiff and Swalwell, saying only that they didn’t live up to a “standard worthy of this committee’s responsibilities.”
Some of the Republicans who encouraged McCarthy to block the two lawmakers’ appointments had claimed that Schiff and Swalwell were compromised on issues relating to national security. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado), for example, recently pushed an unfounded conspiracy theory that Swalwell had shared intelligence records with a Chinese spy.
U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that there’s no evidence to back up those claims.
Schiff, meanwhile, was likely denied for his participation in investigations into former President Donald Trump. Schiff served as the lead manager in Trump’s first impeachment trial.
Within his letter to Jeffries, McCarthy vaguely suggested that the Democratic lawmakers had “misused” committees in various inquiries, likely a reference to Schiff’s calls for investigations into Trump’s various alleged wrongdoings over the past few years.
Earlier this month, McCarthy made similarly vague and unverifiable claims to reporters.
“If you got the briefing I got from the FBI, you wouldn’t have Swalwell on any committee,” McCarthy said.
Notably, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has seen that same briefing, and said it didn’t warrant taking action against Swalwell. Swalwell has said that former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has also seen the briefing and didn’t believe it was disqualifying.
Both Swalwell and Schiff criticized the move by McCarthy, with Swalwell describing it as “political vengeance.”.
“That committee has always been a bipartisan committee, and he’s taking one of the most precious pieces of glassware in the congressional cabinet and smashing it, and the damage is going to be irreparable,” Swalwell said.
Schiff suggested that McCarthy was caving in to pressures from far right Republicans rather than acting on any true conviction that the Democrats are not qualified to serve on the committee.
“I think this is a terrible move on his part and once again, showing McCarthy just catering to the most extreme elements of this conference,” Schiff said.