Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Tuesday rejected the nominations of Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell for the House intelligence committee. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 24 (UPI) -- House Speaker Kevin McCarthy formally rejected the reseating of Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell on the House intelligence committee on Tuesday night, fulfilling a promise to bar the senior California Democrats from reappointment on the grounds of national security.
The long-anticipated move is widely seen by the opposition as retaliation against the Democratic Party for using their majority in the previous Congress to strip assignments from Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona, as well as for its handling of investigations into former President Donald Trump on impeachment charges.
McCarthy, who picked up the House gavel earlier this month, had long vowed to kick the pair of Democrats off the committee as the speaker repeatedly accused Schiff, the committee's former chair, of using his position to publicly lie about Trump. McCarthy also accused Swalwell of connections to a suspected Chinese spy.
Knowing McCarthy intended to reject the nominations of Schiff and Swalwell, House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries wrote to the speaker over the weekend that the move would break with tradition and "runs counter to the serious and sober mission of the Intelligence Committee."
McCarthy responded in a letter Tuesday night rejecting the nominations of Schiff and Swalwell, stating he was doing so "in order to maintain a standard worthy of this committee's responsibilities."
He accused Schiff of misusing the committee during the past two Congresses, which "severely undermined its primary national security and oversight missions -- ultimately leaving our nation less safe."
"I cannot put partisan loyalty ahead of national security, and I cannot simply recognize years of services as the sole criteria for membership of this essential committee," the California Republican wrote. "Integrity matters more."
In a scathing rebuke, Schiff accused McCarthy's decision to kick him from the committee as being "petty, political payback for investigating Donald Trump."
"If he thinks this will stop me, he will soon find out just how wrong he is," Schiff tweeted. "I will always defend our democracy."
Schiff was the lead House manager during Trump's first impeachment trial in 2020 concerning allegations that the former president threatened Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that he would withhold military aid to the country unless it investigated President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
McCarthy has accused Schiff of lying to the American public in connection with his handling of the first impeachment trial of Trump, specifically over stating he did not know the identify of the whistleblower who first raised the charges against the former president. He has also accused him of embellishing connections between Trump and Russia for political purposes.
To reporters Tuesday, prior to notifying Jeffries of his decision, McCarthy accused Schiff of "lying to the American public again and again."
"He does not have a right to sit on that," he said. "He can serve on a committee, but he will not serve on intel, because it goes to the national security of America."
In defense of barring Swalwell, McCarthy, during a heated back and forth with a reporter, said the media did not have the FBI briefing on matter that he was given.
"So it wasn't just us who were concerned about it, the FBI was concerned about putting a member of Congress on the intel committee that has the right to see things that others don't because of his knowledge and relationship with a Chinese spy.
"I've got that briefing so I do not believe he should sit on that committee and I believe there are 200 other Democrats who can sit on that committee," he said.
The rejection comes after the Democrat-controlled House voted to remove Greene and Gosar from their committees in November 2021 over comments promoting conspiracy theories and violence against Democratic lawmakers, which sparked outrage from some Republicans.
McCarthy on Tuesday accused those moves of being politically motivated and that what he was doing was not in retaliation.
"This is not similar to what the Democrats did," he said.