It was bad enough for House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) to subpoena the phone records of businessman Lev Parnas and President Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani and other political opponents, but when he released them in his impeachment report it was a stunning abuse of power. In the view of columnist Kimberly Strassel, Schiff’s move “trampled law and responsibility…it was a disgraceful breach of ethical and legal propriety.”
Not surprisingly, Trump-hating members of the news media trumpeted the release of the call records as a major step toward the President’s impeachment. Their desire to destroy the President is so all-consuming that they missed the bigger picture. Instead, journalists should have been outraged by this invasion of privacy and misuse of power. These records should have never been released to Schiff or any politician and should have never been included in his impeachment report.
The purpose of the release was to embarrass President Trump, Giuliani and Jay Sekulow, the President’s attorneys, John Solomon, investigative reporter, and Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. All of these individuals are on Schiff’s political enemies list.
By releasing the information, Strassel states that Schiff “claims the ignominious distinction of being the first congressman to use his official powers to spy on a fellow member and publish the details.” Congratulations Adam Schiff you have reached a new low in the long history of the United States Congress!
The records prove nothing except that calls were made between certain individuals as no contents of the conversations were provided. Not surprisingly, Schiff has not explained how he obtained the records. Either AT&T complied with a subpoena or this information was provided by the Department of Justice. Some are speculating that the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York released the information. This is the office that has charged Parnas with various violations of campaign finance laws.
Regardless of the source, it is a massive intrusion into the privacy of the individuals involved. By publishing the phone records of Giuliani and Parnas, Schiff has also improperly invaded the privacy of Solomon and other members of the media. For his tireless investigations into the origins of the Russian hoax and Ukrainian corruption, Solomon has now been targeted by Schiff, who is hoping to tarnish his stellar reputation. Hopefully, Solomon’s groundbreaking journalism will be valued even more. If a disgustingly partisan politician like Schiff is willing to use his powers to damage Solomon, it means he must be getting very close to uncovering the underlying truth of this sordid affair.
This disgusting episode reminds us that our privacy is being threatened like never before. According to U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), “your records are not necessarily your records if they are held by a third party – like a phone company, an Internet service provider, a credit card company, or a physician.” This horrible loophole in privacy laws is called the “third-party doctrine.”
Paul is not alone in his concern about this troubling loophole. It is also shared by Ian Pryor, former Department of Justice Deputy Director of Public Affairs. He notes that “Almost everything we do is kept track of by a third party: web browsing, online purchasing history, in-store purchasing history, phone calls, texts, emails, cloud storage, television watching and more. There is no practical way to refrain from all these activities. If all that information can be accessed in some form by the government without probable cause, we are on the fast track to an Orwellian society.”
In our country today, Big Brother is alive and well and becoming more of a problem every day. Our federal government is too large and powerful and it is too easy to intrude into our privacy. There are too few protections available to the American people.
Thus, it was ethically improper, but legal, for Schiff to be able to obtain these phone records. This is a matter of great concern to Senator Paul who believes that “It’s wrong to give Congress this power with no check. And it’s wrong to do this to the president of the United States.”
Of course, he is right as Schiff violated President Trump’s attorney-client privilege. It is a horrible precedent that Schiff created with this invasive tactic. He is hoping that it will lead to an impeachment of President Trump. In contrast, it should lead to Americans putting pressure on Congress to change these laws. As Senator Paul notes action must be taken so “Americans can feel safe in knowing their information and rights are being protected.” Today, none of us should feel safe.
Jeff Crouere is a native New Orleanian and his award winning program, “Ringside Politics,” airs locally at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and at 10:00 p.m.