House Republicans censured Adam Schiff. He couldn’t be happier

A person outdoors with a dome in the background.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) talks with reporters outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The House of Representatives censured Rep. Adam B. Schiff in a party-line, 213-209 vote Wednesday, and the Burbank Democrat seems delighted.

The censure was a victory for Donald Trump, who had called for primary challenges to any Republicans who voted against it, and an indication of the former president’s continued hold on the GOP.

But Schiff, a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Dianne Feinstein, who is retiring, didn’t fight particularly hard against the effort to formally chastise him. He told The Times he initiated no conversations with Republicans in the last week to sway their votes; he’s called the censure a “badge of honor” and has already begun using the free publicity to fuel his Senate campaign.


“Roosevelt said you can judge a person by the enemies they make,” Schiff said in an interview with The Times on Wednesday before the vote. “By that standard, I’m doing pretty damn well.”

Members of Congress censure their colleagues to humiliate them, but censured politicians face no automatic discipline or repercussions — just shame and public disrepute.

After votes were cast Wednesday afternoon, Democrats tried to turn that disrepute around, crying out “shame” at their GOP colleagues. “Santos!” shouted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, referring to Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who has pleaded not guilty to federal fraud charges.

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna of Florida led the GOP effort to censure Schiff, arguing that he had misled the public by saying that Trump colluded with Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference did not identify evidence that Trump’s campaign illegally “conspired or coordinated” with Russia though it benefited from Moscow’s efforts.

Shortly before he released the special counsel’s redacted report on Thursday, Atty. Gen.

April 18, 2019

Schiff defended his position on the House floor Wednesday. The censure resolution, he said, “would hold that when you give internal campaign polling data to a Russian intelligence operative, while Russian intelligence is helping your campaign — as Trump’s campaign chairman did — that you must not call that collusion, though that is its proper name.”


The resolution describes Schiff as dishonest, dishonorable and misleading, and it calls for a Committee on Ethics investigation into his conduct.

Luna introduced a different version of the measure last week, but that effort failed after 20 Republicans joined Democrats in voting to table it. The Florida congresswoman was able to sway colleagues after she removed a $16-million fine from the text of the censure and Trump issued his primary threat.

“Adam Schiff abused his position as Chair of Intel to lie and lead America through a national nightmare with the fake Russia collusion narrative,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

of Bakersfield tweeted Wednesday.

Schiff, in a hotly contested Senate race, can use the publicity, and the funds that come with it. On Tuesday night, he blasted out a campaign text message asking for donations: “Please, rush an urgent donation to help me fight back against this political attack so we can get back to addressing the real needs of our country,” he wrote. The congressman hauled in $6.5 million in the first quarter of 2023, but Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine — his closest competitor right now — wasn’t far behind, with $4.5 million.

With just over a week of fundraising left this quarter, and with nine months until primary day, the censure may give Schiff a political boost.

“It’s the best thing that could happen to him,” said Mike Madrid, a Republican political consultant and co-founder of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project. “It’s the biggest in-kind contribution he could receive.”


The House previously censured Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) in November 2021 for tweeting a manipulated video showing himself killing Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Biden. The chamber censured Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) for various finance violations, and it censured Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) and Dan Crane (R-Ill.) in 1983 for sexual misconduct with House pages.

Over the last 40 years, Schiff is just the fifth representative to be censured — a distinction that, Madrid pointed out, amounts to but a piece of paper.

“A censure is just a resolution,” he said. “It’s just a document. OK, you’re censuring me. Great.”

After Democrats failed to table Luna’s motion, the House settled into a contentious back-and-forth, with speeches slamming Schiff’s record alternating with glowing reviews of his career. The highest-ranking California Democrats came to Schiff’s defense, describing him as an accomplished colleague whom Republicans were targeting to appease Trump.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) called Schiff “wonderful” and blasted GOP House members for wasting their time.

“The other side has turned this chamber ... into a puppet show,” Pelosi said. “A puppet show, and you know what? The puppeteer, Donald Trump, is shining a light on the strings. You look miserable. Miserable.”


In an interview with The Times, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she’s ‘liberated,’ ‘free at last’ and writing a book.

March 20, 2023

On the other side of the country, some Democrats are pleased with the news. Hans Johnson, president of Los Angeles’ East Area Progressive Democrats, said members of his club think that the censure vote is a “political maneuver” that doesn’t have basis. He believes that if anything, the development will help the congressman’s case.

Schiff sometimes lacks the “flashiness of his advocacy and his service” that Porter and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) — another rival in the Senate race — have, Johnson said.

The censure “raises his profile and just makes him seem like a hotter commodity in Washington,” Johnson said. “Sometimes, the antagonists end up augmenting credentials and merit badges of the people they target.”

Johnson’s club is still finalizing its endorsement in the race. Johnson said the censure could have an “incremental” effect on whom the club sides with.

“Californians respect the fact that I’m in the middle of this fight, and I’m taking on whatever attacks come my way to defend our democracy,” Schiff said. “That’s what they’re looking for in the Senate.”

In the final hours before Tuesday night’s vote, Schiff wasn’t hopeful about avoiding censure. The failed vote to table the measure indicated that Luna had gathered enough support.


“I’m assuming that they will have the votes, because Donald Trump has threatened to primary any one of them that vote against it,” Schiff said. “And the one consistent feature of Republicans in the House has been their unswerving devotion — their swift obedience — to the whims of the disgraced former president. And I don’t think today will be any different.”

The successful Schiff censure opens the door to a number of possible Republican maneuvers, including a vote to impeach Biden. Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.) and Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) are introducing or planning to introduce resolutions to impeach the president.

The three representatives and Luna are all members of the House Freedom Caucus. Members of the caucus are competing to

be the most extreme, Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) suggested on Wednesday morning.

“Whether it’s Paulina Luna, or Lauren Boebert, or Marjorie Taylor Green ... these are individuals who still to this day question the results of a free and fair election in 2020,” Aguilar told reporters. “They are trying to out-MAGA and out-extreme each other, by pushing measures to impeach, expel, censure.”

Californians will see a clearer picture of the Senate race — and whether the censure had a financial impact — next month, when the campaigns release their second-quarter fundraising numbers. Porter’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the censure vote; Lee wrote in a statement that Wednesday was an example of the GOP continuing “to peddle the big lie.”

“They prove time and time again that they are more concerned about Fox News appearances than fortifying our democracy, and this resolution is just their latest stunt,” Lee said. “It’s shameful.”