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Rep. Adam Schiff On Comey Memos

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

When former FBI Director James Comey would meet with President Trump, he would take notes. Comey said last year he wanted to make sure that the president couldn't lie about what was said in those meetings. Well, this morning, we have those notes. Republican leaders in Congress were demanding to see them. The Justice Department sent them to Capitol Hill yesterday, and they quickly leaked to the press, including to NPR.

I want to begin with NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas, who's in the studio with us. Hi, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: Can you summarize what's in these memos? What are we seeing here?

LUCAS: Well, these are - it's 15 pages, seven memos in total that Director Comey took after his interactions with the president. It provides a view of Comey's recollections of these conversations. There's a lot in there about his discussions with the president and the president's concerns about the Russia investigation. He touches a number of times on the salacious dossier of unverified material, brings up concerns about what was in there.

A lot of this stuff has been relayed by Comey since then in his book - also talks a bit about Andrew McCabe, who was deputy director of the FBI when Comey was there, has recently been fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. There are a number of topics that they touch on. But, again, this is very much Comey's recollections of his interactions with the president, much of which we've heard from Comey before. And the president may have a different view of how these conversations went and the topics that were touched on.

GREENE: All right. NPR's Ryan Lucas. Ryan, thanks a lot.

LUCAS: My pleasure.

GREENE: I want to bring in a voice here. It is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee to talk about these memos. Congressman, good morning to you.

ADAM SCHIFF: Good morning to you.

GREENE: So the president tweeted last night that these memos, quote, "show clearly that there was no collusion and no obstruction." Does he have an argument there?

SCHIFF: Well, no, but it's the same argument he makes repeatedly. And I think the president takes the view that if he says it enough, people will believe it. And, you know, look, that's a good marketing strategy. These memos are not about the evidence of collusion. What they're about are the conversations between the president and James Comey that the former FBI director found very concerning from the beginning and felt the need to document.

What is, I think, most striking is how consistent these memos are with his testimony, with what he has said within the last week. And that's not that much of a surprise. I mean, this is a career law enforcement person. He would have used these notes, these memos, to inform his testimony before Congress, to inform the chapters of his book that he writes about this. But I think that my colleagues in the GOP who were pushing so hard to get these released or to leak them were hoping that they could find some consistencies they could use to attack James Comey.

And I think they came up empty because his testimony and statements have been very consistent.

GREENE: OK, so Comey has, as you have said, consistently spoken about his concerns. You say that these memos seem very much in line with what Comey has said publicly. The president, though, is saying that there's nothing in here that suggests obstruction, that suggests collusion. It sounds like you would agree with that. I mean, James Comey has never directly made those charges against the president.

SCHIFF: No, I don't agree with that. I do agree that they don't get to a discussion of the collusion issue. But on the issue of obstruction of justice, the president essentially tells the director of the FBI, a subordinate that he's in the position to fire, who he knows wants to keep his job that he hopes that the director will make the Flynn case go away, that he will drop the Flynn case. And as James Comey it, again, it's consistent, I think, with this memo.

He didn't take that as an idle speculation, wouldn't it be nice by the president of the Unites States but rather an injunction by his boss that he wants the Flynn case to go away. And the fact is corroborated in this memo that the president tells everybody else to leave the room shows the consciousness of the wrongdoing of that act by the president. Why else tell everyone else to leave, including Comey's immediate boss, the attorney general?

GREENE: OK, so you're saying we're learning in these memos what we already knew and that the question of obstruction of justice is still an open one in your mind, which I would imagine is something that special counsel Robert Mueller could be looking at. Do these memos, do you think, provide the special counsel with anything new in terms of his investigation?

SCHIFF: Well, the special counsel, I would presume, has had these for quite some time as indeed I've had a chance to review these months ago. But I think what they do is they corroborate one of the key witnesses on the issue of obstruction of justice. So you have the memos, you have James Comey's testimony, you have witnesses beyond James Comey that he shared the information in these memos with - not by providing the memos but by talking with them contemporaneous with these events.

So he leaves the White House, he talks to others on his staff. These are all also witnesses that corroborate James Comey and that contradict the president of the United States.

GREENE: You've had these memos for months, did you say?

SCHIFF: I had a chance to read them months ago, as did my Republican counterpart.

GREENE: And are you happy that they're made public now?

SCHIFF: You know, I don't know whether this was considered to be something that might interfere with the special counsel's work. So that does concern me. But I think they don't help those that are trying to circle the wagons around the president because they, I think, remarkably corroborate what James Comey has said and some additional information in terms of Reince Priebus being concerned about whether Mike Flynn was caught on tape may indicate even more that the public wasn't aware of of concerns within the White House.

GREENE: And you're talking about, we should say, the former White House chief of staff and some concerns that come up in these memos about the president's first national security adviser. A lot to talk about, we'll have to leave it there for now. Congressman Adam Schiff of California, we really appreciate it as always.

SCHIFF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.