(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton reacted today to a federal court decision, which Judicial Watch may appeal, upholding the secrecy of controversial subpoenas for phone records issued by Adam Schiff, Chairman of the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence relating to the impeachment of President Trump.
“Adam Schiff secretly subpoenaed, without court authorization, the phone records of Rudy Giuliani and then published the phone records of innocent Americans, including President Trump’s lawyers, a member of Congress, and a journalist. And now a federal court ruled today that Schiff, or any member of Congress can’t be held accountable for this unprecedented and potentially criminal abuse of power. Every American should be concerned about a ruling that suggests Congress has unlimited power to take and publish their private phone records!”
The Judicial Watch lawsuit sought the controversial impeachment-related subpoenas for phone records, including those of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s lawyer. Schiff and the Committee are being represented by the Office of General Counsel for the House of Representatives.
The phone records led to the publication of the private phone records of Giuliani, Congressman Devin Nunes, journalist John Solomon, Trump attorney Jay Sekulow, attorney Victoria Toensing, and other American citizens.
In their 14-page motion 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 public do not need to see them. Today’s court decision suggested that Schiff and the House have “absolute” immunity from inquiries about the subpoenas.
Judicial Watch filed its lawsuit under the public’s common-law right of public access to examine government records after it received no response to a December 6, 2019, records request (Judicial Watch v. v Adam Schiff and U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (No. 1:19-03790)):
- All subpoenas issued by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on or about September 30, 2019 to any telecommunications provider including, but not limited to AT&T, Inc., for all records of telephone calls of any individuals
- All responses received to the above subpoenas.
The lawsuit argued, “The records are of critical public importance as the subpoenas were issued without any lawful basis and violated the rights of numerous private citizens.”