Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) on Wednesday took to the Chinese spyware app TikTok to complain about his ouster from a House committee in charge of tracking foreign intelligence threats.
In a 30-second message, Schiff blasted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) for removing him and fellow California Democrat Eric Swalwell from the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff, who announced his bid for Senate on Thursday, accused McCarthy of "political retribution" because of his role in congressional investigations of former president Donald Trump. He also directed viewers to his campaign website and asked for contributions.
McCarthy kicked Schiff and Swalwell off the panel on Wednesday, saying they had "severely undermined" the committee’s national security mission. He cited Swalwell’s past relationship with a Chinese spy, Fang Fang, and Schiff’s role as chairman of the House Intelligence panel in stoking the false allegation that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in 2016.
Schiff’s critics are likely to point to his use of TikTok in defense of McCarthy’s decision to remove him from the Intelligence Committee. President Joe Biden banned TikTok from government devices last month. The chief administrative officer of the House last month ordered members of Congress and staffers to delete the app from their House mobile phones because of "high risk to users."
Schiff recently acknowledged the risks of TikTok. He said last month that government officials should not have the app on their phones, and that he personally does not use it because of privacy and security concerns.
"I don’t think members of the government ought to be using it on their phone. I don’t use it on my phone, I wouldn’t recommend others, so I’d like to see the federal government not use TikTok," he said in a local television interview. Schiff said he opposed a wide scale ban on TikTok for the American public but said that he would warn his children "to be very careful about your private data if you use TikTok on your phone" because it "may not be secure."
It is unclear whether Schiff used a government-issued phone to record his message, or whether it was recorded at his Capitol Hill office. Schiff recorded the video from an office with House of Representatives medallions in the background. Members of Congress are barred from conducting campaign activity in their House offices.
Even if Schiff recorded the message on a personal phone, his use of the app as a high-ranking member of Congress could be particularly concerning because of China’s ability to track its overseas users and store their personal data. American officials have long worried that the Chinese government exploits user data for intelligence gathering and propaganda purposes. Employees of ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, reportedly accessed user data of multiple Americans, including two journalists.
Schiff’s office did not respond to a request for comment.