"Under your chairmanship, the House Intelligence Committee has strayed far from its mandate of overseeing the Intelligence Community," the letter to Schiff begins. "In fact, we have gone months at a time in which we've hardly held any oversight-related briefings or hearings at all."
The most notable example the Republican lawmakers point to is the lack of action in response to the bombshell revelations about FISA warrant abuse that were contained in the Department of Justice inspector general's report released in December that dealt with the origins of the FBI's Trump-Russia probe. The lengthy report found "at least 17 significant errors or omissions" in the FISA warrant applications for former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
"The report was followed by the release of a declassified assessment by the Department of Justice acknowledging that at least two of the four FISA applications lacked probable cause," the letter adds, referring to an admission from late January. "Despite the seriousness of these issues and our clear jurisdiction, you have failed to hold a single briefing or hearing on this matter."
The lawmakers also criticized the subject matter of Wednesday's scheduled hearing, saying that there are "numerous Committees" that could instead hold public hearings on technology issues and said that they "cannot support distractions from our core responsibilities."
In conclusion, the letter says that the members "hope this Committee can move past political investigations and publicity stunts and get back to the important work we have traditionally undertaken on a bipartisan basis."
At the start of the scheduled hearing, Strategic Technology and Advanced Research subcommittee Chairman Jim Himes (D-Conn.) noted his Republican colleagues' absence and said that their letter was "as wrongheaded as it is mendacious." He also added that "the Republicans had no objection to the formation of this subcommittee, nor did they ever raise the notion that staying ahead technologically was somehow unimportant."
Himes also claimed that he had been told by fellow committee member Chris Stewart (R-Utah) the week before that ranking member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) "felt strongly that his Republican members not engage in the public work of this committee because of some perceived grievance associated with the impeachment investigation," making Wednesday's letter a "reversal" of what he had previously been told.