Congress is supposed to serve as a check and balance on the President and federal agencies (not to mention the Judiciary). We didn’t see a lot of that when the Republicans were in the majority, but now with the Democrats in control, expect to see a lot of things work differently.
Let’s take a quick look at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, otherwise referred to as the House Intelligence Committee.
What is the Committee’s charge?
The House Intelligence Committee is primarily charged with conducting oversight on the U.S. intelligence community, and making sure that their activities are abiding by the Constitution and established laws. That includes the CIA, FBI, DEA, NSA, Dept. of Defense, Dept. of Energy, Dept. of Homeland Security, the intelligence agencies of the 5 branches of the military, and 5 other agencies.
The Committee also has 4 subcommittees (newly reorganized in 2019):
✦ Strategic Technologies and Advanced Research
✦ Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation
✦ Intelligence Modernization and Readiness
✦ Defense Intelligence and Warfighter Support
In addition to their oversight duties, the Committee deals with any legislation that affects the intelligence community.
In the previous Congress (115th), this Committee was charged with looking into the question of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, along with their counterpart committee in the Senate. This investigation, along with the highly partisan tenor of the hearings, made the Committee very high-profile.
Who is the Committee Chair?
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) is the new Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He takes over from Rep. Devin Nunes (R-California), whose chairmanship seemed to primarily be “aimed at shielding President Trump and his campaign from accountability.”
An overriding concern for Schiff, as he expressed in an interview earlier this month: “This is a real danger, a present danger for the United States, this rise of authoritarianism, and we need to better understand it, and we need to figure out a better strategy to counter it.”
What can we expect from the Committee going forward?
When he was the Ranking Member (i.e. minority leader) of the Committee, Rep. Schiff made it very clear that he disapproved of the many Republican tactics when it came to the Russia investigation. Although the Republicans ended their investigation and issued a report, Rep. Schiff has indicated he wants to continue to look into a few things, including Russian money laundering, Donald Trump Jr.’s Trump Tower meeting, and interview various people who the Republicans didn’t talk to at all.
He may also have the Committee look into how the president’s foreign policies intersect with Trump’s business interests, including looking into China approving patents for Trump family members.
From Brookings: “Schiff has also indicated that he will seek to address wider issues including the rise of authoritarianism around the world and the intersection between the president’s foreign policies and the Trump family’s financial interests globally.”
If you like podcasts, you can listen to one Rep. Schiff did at LawFare in December at this link: Congressman Adam Schiff on the future of the House Intelligence Committee
How to stay on top of what the Committee is doing
Check in on the News section at the Committee’s website: https://intelligence.house.gov/
This is the second in a short series on the key House Committees. The first was on the Oversight Committee.