LEWISTON — Republican Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher bashed federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies during a town hall meeting Friday in Lewiston, claiming they are acting like an unaccountable fourth branch of government that’s trying to take down President Donald Trump.

Responding to a question from Lewiston Orchards resident Marla Barnes about the damage done to U.S. international relationships by Trump’s decision to pull American troops out of northern Syria, Fulcher described the federal government as a powerful beast that can be wielded against external foes. But he warned that powers granted to the agencies after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks can also be misused against American citizens.

“And that’s problematic,” Fulcher said of legislation like the Patriot Act. “It gave the intelligence community — CIA, NSA, FBI — a tremendous amount of open-field running. They hate each other, by the way, for the most part. They don’t work together all that well. But they’ve been able to operate within their own scope so much with surveillance, data gathering, all that stuff, they’ve just seemed to be acting outside the law.”

Fulcher’s comments echoed many of those from Trump, who frequently contradicts the intelligence community and condemns investigations into him, his associates and his political campaigns as a “witch hunt.”

And like the president, Fulcher went after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who is spearheading the impeachment inquiry.

“Schiff is entirely out of line,” Fulcher said, adding that he has talked with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on the topic a number of times. “The only reason she acted uniformly is that she didn’t have the votes on the floor.”

Fulcher said he expects a vote on impeachment before the end of the year and that the process has not been fair. He told the audience of about 50 people at the Lewiston City Library that he has signed onto an effort to have Schiff — a California congressman — censured for his recent parodic rendition of Trump’s controversial phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The call is central to the House impeachment inquiry.


Author: Joel Mills, Lewiston Tribune

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