Fact Check: Did Adam Schiff 'Tamper' With Jim Jordan Jan. 6 Evidence in Meadows Hearing?

Representative Adam Schiff, chair of the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack, cited a number of text messages during a December 13 meeting on referral of former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to the Justice Department for contempt of Congress.

The committee is tasked with investigating the causes of—and key actors behind—the deadly riot, when hundreds of Trump's supporters invaded the Capitol and forced Congress members to flee the chambers. The panel has subpoenaed a number of former Trump administration officials and U.S. lawmakers as part of the investigation.

The trove of around 9,000 pieces of communication from Meadows, which he provided to the committee before abruptly ceasing to cooperate, is continuing to fuel controversy.

The Claim

One piece of evidence in the investigation—a text message sent by an unspecified "lawmaker," later revealed to be GOP Representative Jim Jordan—has come under scrutiny after several Republicans accused Schiff of "misrepresenting" its content.

Since then, several conservative politicians and outlets have attacked the chairman and the committee for supposedly misquoting the original text, with The Federalist appearing to inadvertently out Jordan as the sender.

Jordan's representatives have since confirmed that he sent the text, which they said was not authored by him but was a forwarded message containing a legal argument from former Pentagon Inspector General Joseph Schmitz. Russell Dye, Jordan's spokesman, claimed that the message was "altered" and "misrepresented" the original meaning.

GOP figures and commentators, including Donald Trump Jr., have pounced on the claim, accusing Schiff of "doctoring messages" and "evidence tampering." Others took it even further, calling for the committee to be disbanded and Schiff "indicted for conspiracy to commit treason by doctoring evidence." Mark Levin, a Fox News legal expert, called for California State Supreme Court's ethics arm to consider revoking Schiff's law license.

The Facts

Schiff presented and read out an on-screen graphic of the message at the hearing, via video link.

It read: "On January 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence, as President of the Senate, should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all."

While Schiff didn't identify the lawmaker who sent the message by name, the Federalist's story on Wednesday appeared to identify Jordan as the sender and accused Schiff of purposefully distorting the text.

The lengthy text message, which the conservative outlet said contained a three-page Word Document attachment, outlined a legal argument supposedly supporting the idea that Pence had the authority to disregard the certification of electoral votes that he "believed" were unconstitutional. Pence has previously denied that he had such authority.

Schmitz's full message reads: "On January 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence, as President of the Senate, should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all -- in accordance with guidance from founding father Alexander Hamilton and judicial precedence. 'No legislative act,' wrote Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 78, 'contrary to the Constitution, can be valid.'

"The court in Hubbard v. Lowe reinforced this truth: 'That an unconstitutional statute is not a law at all is a proposition no longer open to discussion.' 226 F. 135, 137 (SDNY 1915), appeal dismissed, 242 U.S. 654 (1916). Following this rationale, an unconstitutionally appointed elector, like an unconstitutionally enacted statute, is no elector at all," the message concludes.

The message was provided to Newsweek by a committee spokesperson.

A spokesman for Jordan later confirmed that he was the sender and said the message was "misrepresented" because Schiff erased the final clause and the dash preceding it, replacing it with a period, and failed to disclose the edits.

Newsweek reached out to Jordan's office for comment but did not hear back before publication.

A committee spokesperson, responding to a Newsweek comment request, admitted an error was made but said the graphic was not presented as an image or screenshot of the actual text sent by the lawmaker.

The spokesperson also explained that the graphic was provided to Schiff in that form, saying:

"The Select Committee on Monday created and provided Representative Schiff a graphic to use during the business meeting quoting from a text message from 'a lawmaker' to Mr. Meadows. The graphic read, 'On January 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence, as President of the Senate, should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all.' In the graphic, the period at the end of that sentence was added inadvertently. The Select Committee is responsible for and regrets the error."

Legal experts appear skeptical about claims that the on-screen message amounted to a distortion of the evidence.

"There is absolutely no validity to the complaints about the way this text was excerpted during the House debate on holding Meadows in contempt," argued Norm Eisen, senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, who was co-counsel for the House Judiciary Committee during the first impeachment of Donald Trump.

"The fact that a period was inserted, possibly inadvertently, instead of an ellipsis on a graphic presentation is irrelevant. The use of a period versus an ellipsis doesn't change the meaning of the deeply troubling and false statement that the vice president should tamper with electoral votes," Eisen told Newsweek in an email.

Eisen added that it is normal to excerpt portions of materials when you are presenting such material in graphic form during a congressional debate, as there wouldn't have been enough room for all the words in the original text.

"Of course it's true that an ellipsis would have been more accurate than a period, but it's a distinction without a difference," he said. "It doesn't matter to the meaning here, and Jordan and others are seizing upon this and distorting it for purely cynical reasons to divert attention from the shocking view that Pence had the power to hijack the election and sabotage the choices that the voters made and the states certified."

The Ruling

Fact Check - Mostly False

Mostly False.

It's true that committee staff cut short Jordan's original forwarded message for the sake of brevity and that a period was mistakenly added in place of an em dash. The committee has admitted to both. But there is no evidence that the changes were made in order for Schiff to mislead fellow committee members, nor do they alter or distort the meaning of the message. The claims of evidence tampering by Schiff are misleading because the committee said that the graphic was shared with him in that form. It has since shared the full text, which is stored in the committee's evidence trove in its original form.


Rep. Adam Schiff speaking on Capitol Hill
Representative Adam Schiff has been accused by Republicans of "doctoring evidence" in connection with the House's January 6 committee's investigation of the Capitol riot. Above, Schiff speaks during a news conference about the Protecting Our Democracy Act on December 9. Drew Angerer/Getty Images