Adam Schiff says there’s collusion
US House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) joins us for an update on the Trump-Russia investigation.
In this episode, Schiff responds to Trump’s latest attack on him just this morning; and gives his views on the infamous Trump Tower meeting of June 2016 in which Don Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner met with representatives of the Russian government in the hopes of securing Russian help with the election; the possibility of Trump pardoning himself and others; whether Devin Nunes will be held responsible for his obstruction of the Russia probe during his tenure as House Intelligence Committee chair; whether Mueller’s final report will be sent to Congress and made public; whether Mueller will be able to seek more perjury charges following the House Intelligence Committee’s release of transcripts to the Special Counsel’s office; and finally whether Schiff will run for president in 2020.
Below is an excerpt from the interview, and below that some of the longer transcript.
In response to Trump’s twitter-attack today on Adam Schiff alleging “personal harassment”:
SCHIFF: The President has had two years of a congress that would simply do no oversight whatsoever… And so the idea of meaningful oversight, of Congress as a coequal branch, clearly terrifies the President…. And in terms of what possible basis could that terrible Adam Schiff have for looking at my business, let me just mention one thing in the public view, something that is uncontested, and should alarm every American: During the president campaign, Donald Trump was pursuing what may have been the most lucrative business deal of his life, something that the Special Counsel’s office has said might make him hundreds of millions of dollars, this Moscow Trump Tower, this deal that had eluded him his whole career, and misleading the country about it. At the same time he was telling the country he had no business dealings with Russia, his organization was on the phone trying to enlist the help of the Kremlin to make that deal go through. There are also public reports they even offered Putin a $50 million penthouse in the tower as a way of greasing the deal. And at the same time, the Russians were seeking relief from sanctions worth billions of dollars to the Russians. Now that is pretty astounding. And the President’s answer to that is “hey, I might have lost my election, why should I miss out on making all that money? This is I think Exhibit A in why the country ought to be concerned that the President may be pursuing his financial interests, or driven by his financial interests, not the interests of the United States.
Hasn’t collusion already been proven?
SCHIFF: There is ample evidence on the issue of collusion. The question of whether it rises to the level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt as to a criminal conspiracy is a different question, and one that ultimately Bob Mueller wil have to answer. And that even may not be answered completely if the Justice Department takes the position, which I think is flawed, that you can’t indict a sitting President…. This is the challenge, in that the country is so stovepiped now in how it gets it’s information. Now, it’s very difficult to break through and help people see what’s right before their eyes. But these secret discussions to make money from Russia during the campaign, that the president and his organization were having, that Paul Manafort was having with his Russian contacts, at the same time the Russians clearly wanted something from Donald Trump and his campaign in the form of sanctions release, all goes to the issue of collusion, all goes to the issue of conspiracy, and you really have to be willfully blind not to see just how alarming this is.
Do you agree with Bannon that the Trump Tower meeting was unpatriotic and treasonous?
SCHIFF: Certain things are beyond doubt and the first is, the Trump campaign, in the form of Don Jr., and the campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and the son-in-law Jared Kushner were more than interested in getting the help of the Russian government…. So in terms of intent to conspire, intent to collude, that’s pretty darn clear.
What is the risk of Donald Trump pardoning everyone, including himself:
SCHIFF: First of all, I think it’s a mistake to assume that the pardon power is absolute, it’s not absolute. None of the powers in the Constitution are absolute. And they’re certainly not interpreted in a manner in which you would void essentially, or negate, whole other sections of the Constitution by giving a certain provision a certain meaning. If you took an absolutist view on the pardon power, for example, it would mean the President of the United States could simply instruct people to violate the law, and if they were ever brought up on charges, pardon them. Now that, certainly, I think would never be the constitutional interpretation, and as one of our justices once wrote, “the Constitution is not a suicide pact.” And if we were to interpret it that way, it would mean essentially the President was above the law in every way.
Are you going to look into Devin Nunes for impeding the Russia investigation in the past?
SCHIFF: There’s a broad latitude given to members of Congress, whether for good or for ill, under the Speech and Debate clause. Now, members of Congress are not allowed to violate the law, and don’t have protections under the Speech and Debate clause for violating the law. But for actions that are considered unethical, there is an Ethics Committee process, as imperfect as that is. I don’t want to comment particularly about specific members of Congress.
Will Mueller’s final report be provided to Congress and made public?
SCHIFF: We’re determined that it will be…. I find it astounding that we have an acting Attorney General, and an Attorney General nominee, who both refuse to follow the advice of ethics lawyers. Because, as an initial matter, neither of them should have had anything to do with the Russia investigation, they’re both conflicted, there’s an appearance of impropriety with respect to both of them, they clearly prejudged the investigation. But we’re going to insist in Congress on that report being provided to Congress and made public, and we’ll do whatever is necessary to make that happen. I will tell you that for the last two years, the Republicans subpoenaed thousands and thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of documents in the Clinton email investigation from the Justice Department. And as they did so, and as the Justice Department kept providing those documents, I continually met with everyone from Rod Rosenstein on down and said, you know the provision of these documents is in violation of department policy. But if this is the road that you’re gonna go down, you need to be able to understand that you’re going to have to live with this precedent. At some point, the Mueller investigation will be over too, and you’re not going to tell a Democratic majority that it can not get discovery and investigation involving the Trump campaign after providing voluminous discover to Congress in the Clinton email investigation.
Can Mueller seek perjury charges on his own regarding lying to Congress?
SCHIFF: Yes. We don’t have to make a referral, formal of informal, for Bob Muller to decide that someone has lied to our committee and to bring a perjury or false statement prosecution. The Justice Department and the Special Counsel are fully empowered to do that on their own. We can make referrals, though, as well, if we have particular concern about witnesses. Now, one of the things that has been impeding us in making referrals like that — we certainly had deep concerns over witnesses and their truthfulness, some of which are borne out by the indictment for example of Roger Stone — but, the Special Counsel’s office, because they have not had to deal with the obstructionism that we dealt with in the last session in our committee, have access to a volume of evidence that we don’t have, and are in the best position to determine at this stage who may have lied to our community and who may have told the truth…. You come before a committee, you take an oath, and you lie, you will pay a price for it.
Will you be bringing back witnesses like Donald Trump Jr?
SCHIFF: Don Jr, for example, claimed that his conversations with his father were protected by attorney-client privilege, which is kind of a new theory, neither are attorney or client, the Republicans said “okay, well you’re here voluntarily, you don’t have to answer anything you don’t want.” Well, you can’t conduct a meaningful investigation that way, and since the Republicans walked away from the investigation, we have seen the folly in simply accepting everyone at face value, and what they had to say without pursuing records, without compelling answers, so we’re obviously going to take a different approach.
Will you run for president in 2020?
SCHIFF: I am not running for president. Like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I am simply too young to run for President, but I do appreciate the question. You know, I do get a fair amount of feedback from people who both say “I wish you’d run for President,” and who say, “I’m glad you’re not running for President because we need you to do what you’re doing right now.”