Jan 31, 2023

The Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell removal.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Plus, why are so many tech layoffs happening?

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

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Today's read: 11 minutes.

We're breaking down the removal of Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from a powerful committee. Plus, a question about the spate of tech layoffs. 

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Quick hits.

  1. The White House said on Monday that it plans to allow emergency declarations tied to Covid-19 to expire on May 11. (The end)
  2. 74 people were killed and more than 150 were injured in a suicide bombing at a mosque in Pakistan. A junior commander for the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter, though top officials have denied it. (The bombing)
  3. Israel arrested 42 people after a deadly shooting at a synagogue late Friday night. Seven people were killed and three more injured in the shooting. Two more people were injured in a separate attack on Saturday, where a 13-year-old boy was allegedly the gunman. (The attacks)
  4. Three emergency responders were fired and two more Memphis police officers were suspended for their roles in the death of Tyre Nichols. (The punishment)
  5. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) is headed to Iowa to speak at the Polk County Republican Party's Lincoln Dinner, fueling speculation of a potential 2024 presidential run. (The rumors)

Today's topic.

The House committees. Last week, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) formally removed Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA) from the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (commonly known as the House Intelligence Committee). McCarthy announced the move after House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) penned a letter pressing him to allow Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, to keep his seat. McCarthy has also pledged to move Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from her seat on House Foreign Affairs.

Meanwhile, McCarthy placed Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) on the Committee on Oversight and Accountability, often called the House Oversight Committee, which is one of the most powerful committees in Congress. The Oversight Committee has far-reaching subpoena power, and has been at the center of several nationally televised investigations and impeachment hearings.

Reminder: The House has standing committees (permanent), select committees (created by resolution, usually to conduct investigations), and joint committees (composed of House and Senate members ad hoc, usually to conduct studies). Typically select committees are temporary, but the House Intelligence Committee is the exception. The House Speaker can unilaterally decide who serves on select committees, which allowed McCarthy to make the decision on Schiff and Swalwell without input from Congress. Removing a member from a standing committee, however, requires a majority vote on the House floor, meaning McCarthy could only lose four votes if he were to try to remove Rep. Omar.

Background: In February of 2021, then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took the unusual step of stripping Greene of her committee assignments. In a full House vote, 11 Republicans joined Democrats. Pelosi justified stripping Greene of her seat for "liking" social media posts that threatened violence against Democratic members and agreeing on social media with posts claiming that some school shootings had been staged. Then, in November of 2021, Gosar was censured and stripped of his committee assignments after posting an edited anime video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez (D-NY). Just two Republicans, Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), joined Democrats in voting to remove him.

Greene apologized for her social media activity and Gosar took the video down, but McCarthy pledged in November of 2021 that they would be reinstated if Republicans re-took the House.

Now, McCarthy says he is blocking Schiff and Swalwell from the House Intelligence Committee not out of political vengeance, but national security concerns. He explained Schiff's removal by citing his misleading comments to the public during the Trump impeachment, and blocked Swalwell because of his purported association with a Chinese spy. He also said he intends to remove Omar because of her past antisemitic comments.

Today, we're going to take a look at some commentary on these moves from the right and left, then my take.

What the right is saying.

  • Many on the right support removing Schiff, Swalwell and Omar, even if they are critical of Greene.
  • Some say McCarthy is restoring integrity to the House Intelligence Committee, and that Swalwell and Schiff's lies were disqualifying.
  • Others argue that this is what happens when Democrats don't police their own.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board said Schiff "earned his ouster from the Intelligence Committee" by openly lying to Americans.

"The most well documented example was in early 2018, in response to then Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes’s effort to inform the public about the FBI’s abuse of the FISA warrant process as part of its Trump-Russia collusion probe," the board said. "Mr. Nunes released a memo summarizing the committee’s findings that the FBI had obtained surveillance warrants from the secret FISA court against former Trump staffer Carter Page during the 2016 campaign; that the Steele dossier financed by the Clinton campaign formed an “essential” part of the surveillance applications; and that the FBI failed to tell the FISA court that dossier author Christopher Steele had political and media ties.

“Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz confirmed all of this two years later in his report on the FBI’s probe,” the board said. “But in early 2018 Mr. Schiff fought release of the Nunes memo, and he released a memo of his own that he claimed was a more accurate summary of the evidence. Though he had access to the same documents, the Schiff memo trashed the Nunes document and he deceived the public. His summary claimed the ‘FBI and DOJ officials did not ‘abuse’ the [FISA] process, omit material information, or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump campaign.’ That was all false. Yet nearly all of the media seized on the Schiff document to declare the Nunes memo ‘a joke,’ and keep the collusion deceit going for another year.”

In The Federalist, Tristan Justice said Kevin McCarthy "restored integrity" to the House Intelligence Committee.

“Schiff’s four-year tenure as chair has been marked by remarkable abuse and grotesque politicization, with Schiff spearheading House Democrats’ impeachment efforts through the Russia hoax and allegations of Ukraine-related corruption. California Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell was also kicked from the committee after federal law enforcement found the congressman was likely compromised by a Chinese spy,” Justice wrote. “Schiff earned his favor with Pelosi as a star conman who was eager to leak stories about scandalous Russia collusion to allied media, which were thrilled to run claims that weren’t true. Meanwhile, the California congressman never hesitated to brag about having evidence that would land Trump in jail, which has been the No. 1 priority on the Democrats’ policy agenda since 2016.

“As House Republican minority leader last year, McCarthy had been clear he would kick a trio of Democrat lawmakers from committees if he were eventually elected speaker. The move would follow the Democratic majority taking the unprecedented step of dictating Republican appointments in the last Congress,” Justice added. “Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was stripped of her assignments within a month of her swearing-in, and Pelosi barred Republican appointments to the Select Committee on Jan. 6. Pelosi’s refusal to greenlight McCarthy’s picks for the panel marked the first time in House history that minority appointments were barred... McCarthy made clear no Democrat lawmakers would be denied proper seats on committees to represent their constituents, but added that none of the three lawmakers whom he reassigned would serve in roles related to national security.”

In The Washington Post, Marc Thiessen expressed support for removing Omar, Swalwell and Schiff.

"Omar is an antisemite who has no business serving on a committee that helps set U.S. policy toward Israel. And Schiff and Swalwell are conspiracy theorists who abused their positions on the Intelligence Committee to falsely claim they had seen secret evidence that President Donald Trump conspired with Russia to steal the 2016 election — which was a lie,” Thiessen wrote. “Neither deserves access to our nation’s secrets… Omar’s record of virulent antisemitic remarks is disqualifying. In March 2019, she declared politicians who support Israel 'push for allegiance to a foreign country'... Then in June 2021, Omar compared the U.S. and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban... Omar has said U.S. support for Israel is ‘all about the Benjamins’ — insinuating that Jews buy American influence.

“While giving Omar a pass, Pelosi made a show of stripping Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) — a disgraceful conspiracy theorist — of her committee assignments,” Thiessen said. “Now, McCarthy is using that precedent to do what Pelosi should have done years ago and strip Omar of her committee assignments. He is also right to remove Schiff and Swalwell, who misled Americans into believing they had seen secret evidence Trump conspired with Russia when no such evidence existed... When Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) wondered publicly in 2019 why terms such as ‘white nationalist’ and ‘white supremacist’ had suddenly ‘become offensive,’ Republicans stripped him of his committee assignments. But Democrats did not police their own ranks in the same way. Now, Republicans will do it for them.”

What the left is saying.

  • Many on the left are critical of McCarthy's committee moves, and say he may regret the way he handled Schiff.
  • Some argue that removing Greene and Gosar was justified, but this is just political vengeance.
  • Others ask about McCarthy and other Republicans who have also lied to the public.

In MSNBC, Hayes Brown warned of the House Oversight Committee being "packed to the brim" with diehard MAGA members.

"It’s a veritable rogue’s gallery of camera-ready firebrands, all eager for a chance to be front and center during the looming high-profile clashes with the Biden administration. In a Congress that is, by any measure, poised to be a three-ring circus, the clowns of the Oversight Committee are ready to compete for the spotlight," Brown wrote. "In theory, the committee... is an important gig that speaks to the balance of powers in our system. Most of the other House committees operate as mini fiefdoms, focused on smaller swatches of the executive branch. The Oversight Committee’s remit, though, is the entirety of the federal government, and the committee acts as the primary investigative arm of the House.

"That means the committee can take an overarching view, connect the dots and follow lines of inquiry that other committees seeking out corruption and waste cannot. And given the explosive and controversial nature of some of its investigations, committee members are primed for prime time, with many of them more than willing to spend their evenings telling Fox News viewers about the scandal du jour," he said. "Among the 17 Republicans who will be perched on the Oversight Committee alongside Comer are Arizona’s Paul Gosar and Pennsylvania’s Scott Perry, two of the most fervent advocates for former president Donald Trump’s 2020 election conspiracy lies. There’s also newly minted frenemies Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, two far-right darlings and media hounds."

The Washington Post editorial board said McCarthy may regret kicking Schiff off the House Intelligence Committee.

"This is payback for votes two years ago by the Democratic-led House to remove Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Paul A. Gosar (R-AZ) from their committees. The Editorial Board didn’t endorse that effort at the time because we feared this sort of tit-for-tat cycle. But there are significant differences — starting with the fact that some Republicans joined Democrats in voting to strip Ms. Greene and Mr. Gosar of their assignments," the board said. "Moreover, both of the Republicans had at least implicitly encouraged political violence: Mr. Gosar posted an animated video depicting the murder of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Ms. Greene claimed on social media that deadly school shootings were staged and favorited posts calling for the execution of Democratic leaders and federal agents.

"Last month, Ms. Greene boasted that she and former Trump aide Stephen K. Bannon would have succeeded if they had organized the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. 'We would have won,' she said. 'Not to mention, we would’ve been armed.' (She subsequently called this sarcasm.)... We suspect the real reason Republicans are going after Mr. Schiff is that he has been so effective," the board said. "If Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) retires as many expect in 2024, Mr. Schiff appears likely to run for Senate. It is possible that Mr. McCarthy’s pettiness could redound to the political benefit of his fellow Californian. He might have laid the groundwork for Mr. Schiff to succeed Ms. Feinstein not only as a senator but also in a leading role on the Senate Intelligence Committee."

In Mother Jones, Abigail Weinberg asked "what about Kevin McCarthy's lies?"

"Both Schiff and Swalwell have made the sort of spin and exaggeration common among politicians. But it’s clear that McCarthy is cherry-picking moments of dishonesty to remove the most outspoken Democratic politicians from one of Congress’ most important committees," Weinberg said. "Never mind that habitual liar Rep. George Santos (R-NY) was deemed fit to serve on the Committee on Small Business and the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Or that McCarthy himself is serving as Speaker despite his blatant lie that he had never called on Trump to resign. As we reported in April, McCarthy called a New York Times report about his castigation of Trump following the January 6, 2021, insurrection 'totally false and wrong.'

"But then, in an extraordinary twist, the reporters went on the Rachel Maddow Show and played an honest-to-God recording of McCarthy detailing a plan to pressure Trump to resign from office," she wrote. "The comments took place during a Jan. 10 meeting with Republican lawmakers, in response to a question from Rep. Liz Cheney. In the recording, McCarthy says that he planned to call Trump and recommend that he leave office voluntarily, using the threat of impeachment as leverage… 'I will not be like Democrats and play politics with these [assignments],' McCarthy told reporters yesterday. But it’s hard to think of any other way to describe what he’s doing."

My take.

Reminder: "My take" is a section where I give myself space to share my own personal opinion. If you have feedback, criticism, or compliments, don't unsubscribe. You can reply to this email and write in. If you're a subscriber, you can also leave a comment.

  • This was inevitable ever since Greene was removed.
  • There is a good case for Greene, Gosar, Swalwell and Schiff not being on any of these committees.
  • Now, the cycle is almost certainly going to get worse.

There was something inevitable about every step in this whole saga.

In the first chapter, it was inevitable that when Republicans empowered people like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar with committee seats, they would eventually squander that opportunity with inexcusable actions. For Greene, it was elevating social media posts that called for the execution of her colleagues. For Gosar, it was sharing a dumb animated video that showed him beheading one of his colleagues.

Next was the inevitability of what Pelosi did. Of course, the moment she pushed to remove two Republicans from their committees, she set the cycle of retribution into motion. There was no doubt that when Republicans won back the House they would retaliate, and of course McCarthy has not had a hard time getting his talking points in order. After all, Swalwell and Schiff are easy targets.

It was inevitable.

The Swalwell "Chinese spy" story is often exaggerated by the right, but it's not nothing, either. Christine Fang targeted up-and-coming politicians and even got romantically involved with two midwestern mayors. Her involvement with Swalwell seems to have included participating in fundraising events for his 2014 re-election campaign and placing at least one intern on his staff. The FBI caught onto Fang's activities, alerted him, and he cut ties with her.

Fang aside, the same arguments against Schiff could be used on Swalwell, too. Schiff promised over and over that he had "plenty of evidence of collusion or conspiracy" between Trump and Russia, and told the American public he had unearthed a conspiracy equal to the "size and scope" of Watergate. He also lied to the public about "Russian bot" operations on social media, alleging that conservative support on Twitter for the Devin Nunes memo was the product of some foreign operations. We now know — thanks to the Twitter files — not only that it was just organic pro-Trump chatter online, but that Twitter had told members of Congress this fact.

Swalwell, meanwhile, responded affirmatively to MSNBC's Chris Matthews — three times — that President Trump "has been an agent of the Russians." Swalwell memorably said, "I think all the arrows point in that direction, and I haven’t seen a single piece of evidence that he’s not.” Matthews appeared unsure he was hearing the congressman correctly and tried to clarify a third time: “An agent like in the 1940s where you had people who were ‘reds,’ to use an old term, like that? In other words, working for a foreign power?” Matthews asked. Swalwell replied: “He’s working on behalf of the Russians, yes.”

Just as with Schiff, Swalwell didn't ever present evidence for his claim, nor did Robert Mueller's investigation turn up anything to substantiate that kind of rhetoric. This guy sat on the House Intelligence Committee, and he used his perch to spread absurdities, and now he's getting axed.

To me, the Omar case is a bit different. Whether you believe she is an antisemite or not, as even Matt Gaetz (R-FL) conceded, the outlines of the argument were never about honesty or responsibility. Omar “didn’t lie about our intelligence agencies,” Gaetz said to Punchbowl News. “[Republicans] just don’t like what she has to say.” If anything feels like political retribution, removing Omar — one of the loudest Republican critics in Congress — is it.

In an almost comical way, I could pretty easily make the case that Greene, Gosar, Schiff and Swalwell all deserved to get canned, though for different reasons and to different degrees. But instead, we got four years of Schiff at the helm of House Intelligence, a few years of Swalwell as a cable TV star, and now Greene and Gosar being elevated to two of the most powerful positions in Congress.

Pelosi was right to rally Congress against Greene and Gosar, as were the Republicans who voted to remove them. Democrats were wrong to leave Swalwell and Schiff on the House Intelligence Committee given their unsubstantiated rhetoric around the Trump-Russia story, and Republicans seem well within bounds to remove them now. Republicans are wrong to reinstate Gosar and Greene, which Democrats will view as an escalation, and this cycle will continue — all ending with someone like Schiff potentially landing on the more powerful Senate Intelligence Committee. Don’t you love Congress?

When our parties play politics with assignments, the biggest loser is the American people. Inevitably, these very important committees will spend more time on partisan hackery than genuinely important, bipartisan issues like investigating pandemic fraud. When people express their deep disapproval of our current political moment, this is the kind of spectacle that helps make their point.

Your questions, answered.

Q: This might be a silly question, but why are we seeing a bunch of giant companies (Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Twitter, etc) do huge layoffs all of the sudden and all at the same time? I've been very curious about it and I imagine there is a simple answer I am missing.

— Julie from Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Tangle: I think there are a few things going on all at once. For starters, all these companies are responding to the same macroeconomic pressures, which is part of what accounts for the timing. The largest of these pressures is probably rising interest rates. The Fed is still hiking rates up, which makes borrowing more expensive, which makes investors less willing to subsidize many of the projects that these huge tech companies want to pursue. So a lot of the companies move from ambitious investment that might fail, to a stricter focus on finding ways to make money. That's why you see stock prices rise for some of these companies after layoffs: Investors understand profit is being pursued more earnestly.

The tech space has also been in a massive expansion for a while now, and some kind of contraction was bound to happen. Companies saw massive revenue growth during the pandemic, projected that growth to continue in a linear fashion, and hired accordingly. As people go back to pre-Covid normalcy, that expansion makes less sense, and has prompted worker cuts.

It looks like we are getting that contraction in earnest now: More than 58,000 people have been laid off in tech based companies in 2023 already, compared to 140,000 in all of 2022. Still, many of these companies are much bigger than they were in 2020. Google's parent Alphabet is laying off 12,000 people, but it hired over 30,000 in 2022. Microsoft is laying off 10,000 people after hiring 40,000 last fiscal year.

While the macroeconomic pressures are similar, every company is different. Twitter, for instance, went through mass layoffs after an ownership change. Google laid off a bunch of people tied to its open source and cloud business, which was a surprising twist to many who know more about the space than I do.

I suppose there might be some kind of contagion effect happening, too. All of these companies compete with each other, fighting over investors and how to get positive press about their record profits. So if one sees a competitor doing some belt-tightening, maybe they decide they ought to follow suit.

Want to have a question answered in the newsletter? You can reply to this email (it goes straight to my inbox) or fill out this form.

Under the radar.

On Saturday, police body camera footage and security footage was released from the night Nancy Pelosi's husband Paul was attacked by an intruder. The attack, which has been the subject of widespread speculation, happened largely as police and initial reporting on the event suggested. When police opened the door, the body camera footage showed the suspect, David DePape, holding a hammer along with Paul Pelosi before ripping it from his grip and hitting him over the head. Separate security footage from the home shows DePape using the same hammer to break into the house, ending speculation that DePape may have been let in by Pelosi or had a prior relationship with him. NBC News obtained the footage.


  • Three. The number of Republicans who have said they are opposed to, or undecided on, plans to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from her committee seat.
  • Four. The number of votes Speaker McCarthy can lose if he attempts to remove Omar.
  • $296.2 million. The annual salary of Peter Maxwell Kern, head of Expedia Group, the highest paid CEO in the S&P 500 in 2021.
  • $55.7 billion. Exxon's profit in fiscal year 2022, its highest ever annual profit.
  • 32,399. The number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 on January 30th.
  • $12 million. In an analysis of 90 government audits into overpayments made to Medicare Advantage health plans, the combined overpayment total for 18,090 patients.

Have a nice day.

The outlook for the global economy in recent weeks has unexpectedly brightened, with the International Monetary Fund and Wall Street analysts far more upbeat about what lies ahead. The United States, Europe and China are all outperforming expectations and, for now, avoiding some predicted stumbles. American employers are continuing to hire at a consistent pace while the Federal Reserve's fastest hikes in 40 years have yet to push the economy into a feared prolonged recession. “The outlook is less gloomy than in our October forecast,” Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, chief economist for the International Monetary Fund, said. “We are not seeing a global recession right now.” The IMF has also dropped its prediction that one-third of all economies will drop into a recession by the end of 2023. The Washington Post has the story.

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