Rep. Adam Schiff On Trump, Comey And Russia
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
So last week, the FBI director was fired. Earlier this week, we learned President Trump disclosed highly classified information to Russia.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And yesterday, another bombshell - James Comey, when he was still in his job as FBI director, wrote a memo detailing a conversation he had with the president.
GREENE: Comey wrote that Trump asked him to shut down his investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and possible ties to Russia. The New York Times yesterday broke this story, which NPR has now confirmed. White House officials, though, denied the president ever asked Comey or anyone else to end an investigation. California Congressman Adam Schiff is in our studio this morning. He is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, good morning.
ADAM SCHIFF: Good morning. Good to be with you.
GREENE: So what do you think was going on in this conversation between the president and Comey?
SCHIFF: Well, we'd certainly like to find out. And the Congress needs to get ahold of these memoranda, any notes that Director Comey took of frankly any meeting on the subject of the Russia investigation with the president, or meetings that he was concerned about may have crossed the ethical line, so we can determine just what the president was doing and why he was doing it. Those will be some of the best evidence. Only - the only better evidence, frankly, would be if the president in fact had tapes, as he threatened Director Comey that he might have.
GREENE: You think he does?
SCHIFF: I really have no idea. This is one of the problems with this presidency, and that is you can't really believe what this president says, particularly on the subject of Russia but on other issues as well. After all, this is a president who has invented millions of undocumented immigrants voting to deprive him of the popular vote. So he's shown a penchant for saying things that are patently untrue. Whether his threat to Comey that he had tapes was in that category - patently untrue - or whether he does, I think it's very possible either scenario is accurate.
GREENE: So there's a Republican colleague of yours who - who, in his job, could actually play a pretty big role in where this all goes - Jason Chaffetz, the chair of the oversight committee. He says he wants to know if the president tried to influence or impede an FBI investigation in this conversation with Comey. If there is evidence that the president was doing that, what is the next step here?
SCHIFF: Well, one question, of course, that's been raised a great deal in the last week but more seriously in the last few days or hours is, did the president obstruct justice? Was there a criminal offense here or an offense that might subject him to removal from office? I think we need to know a lot more about just what went on when the president reportedly asked other people to leave the room so he could talk to Comey privately.
Was he trying to interfere in the investigation? Was his motivation to try to shut down the investigation of Mike Flynn? And was this also motivated by a concern that the trail of liability could lead to him? If that were true, that would be obstruction of justice. And there would be very serious consequences that might fall from that.
GREENE: You used the words removal from office. And, I mean, there are some Democrats who are using the I word, impeachment. Are - are they wrong to be talking about that at this point?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, it's certainly on people's minds. And I'm reluctant to leap to that conclusion. It would be such a wrenching experience for the whole country. I tried an impeachment case in the Senate years ago involving a federal judge, and that was one thing. That was serious enough. But when you're talking about the president the United States, it's obviously a whole different order of magnitude in terms of the disruption of the country. But the country is being disrupted right now by a series of self-imposed crises by this president. You know, impeachment is obviously in part a legal question, but it's also a very practical question.
And at its root, I think the practical question is, would the country feel that his removal was warranted by improper or criminal behavior? Or would the country feel that this was simply the nullification of an election by other means? That to me is, at heart, the practical question that's involved. And I don't think any of us - because it is such a wrenching thing - ought to race to that conclusion. I think we ought to find what is the evidence here. It's very possible there's some profound evidence if Director Comey did keep contemporaneous notes. And I think we ought to follow that evidence and leave to another day what conclusions we might draw from it.
GREENE: Yeah, I wanted to ask you that. I mean, is it possible that you, even by raising the idea of removal from office and Democrats talking about impeachment, are getting way, way ahead of yourselves? I mean, could there have been some sort of misunderstanding in this conversation, the president saying, you know, that he really likes Michael Flynn and could, you know, Comey, you know, go easy on him or something. I don't know. Like, it - it might not rise to the level of obstruction of justice.
SCHIFF: No, that's absolutely true. And in fact, this is not an issue that I raise. But it has been raised over and over again, particularly in the last 24 hours. So I'm asked to respond to it. But you're absolutely right. At this point, all we have is an allegation in a newspaper article that could prove to be incorrect. We might find out tomorrow from Director Comey that no, in fact, this conversation didn't happen. He doesn't have a memoranda. So there are a lot of facts that we need to get to the bottom of before we even suggest any conclusions.
GREENE: OK. Speaking this morning to Congressman Adam Schiff. He is the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, and he came into our studios this morning. Congressman, thanks a lot.
SCHIFF: You bet. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.