Adam Schiff - Investigating Russia's Role in the 2016 Election - Extended Interview

Extended - April 18, 2017 - Adam Schiff 04/18/2017 Views: 41,851

Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee explains how the group maintains bipartisanship while investigating Russia's efforts to meddle in the U.S.'s 2016 election. (17:02)

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Please welcome DemocraticCongressman Adam Schiff!

-♪ -(cheering and applause)

Welcome to the show.

Thank you. Great to be with you.

Oh, wow. What a great timeto have you on the show as well.

Uh, you are the ranking Democrat

of the House IntelligenceCommittee.

Just real quick, for peoplewho are not completely sure,

me being one of them, what isthe House Intelligence Committee

actually meant to do?

Well, first of all, uh, we meetthree floors below the Capitol

in a windowless room that weaffectionately call the Bunker,

uh, where the news is badall the time.

Uh, basically, the intelligenceagencies come to us

-and they say, "These peopleare trying to kill us. -Uh-huh.

"Uh, these people are tryingto kill us. -Uh-huh.

"And, by the way, these otherpeople, also trying to kill us.

Have a nice day."

Uh, that's pretty muchwhat it's like.

But we oversee the agencies.

We try to make sure thatthey're talking to each other,

that they are gettingthe resources

-that they need to protectthe country. -Right, right.

And that's our, uh,primary responsibility.

So, I mean, if-if it'sabout people on the outside

that may be attacking,how does that apply

to what's happeningright now with Donald Trump?

Because we hear about the HouseIntelligence Committee.

We hear that it appliesto Donald Trump

and the investigationinto Russia's allegations

and the connectionsto the Trump campaign.

What is the House IntelligenceCommittee's job right now,

as it applies to the president?

Up until recently, I think whenpeople thought of our committee,

they thought of it in termsof that oversight role

and making surethat we were drawing the line

-in the right place between,uh, security and privacy. -Yeah.

We were protectingpeople's privacy from any, uh,

unconstitutional surveillanceor anything of that nature.

Uh, but we have this added new

and very importantresponsibility of looking

at exactly what the Russians didwhen they hacked our democracy

duringthe presidential election.

Now, we know, uh, thatthe Russians were responsible.

They know they...We know they hacked,

uh, our democratic institutions.

They published documents. Theyessentially weaponized data.

But there's a lot we don't knowabout what the Russians did,

uh, and we have the primaryresponsibility in the House

of investigating the whole rangeof Russian actions,

uh, from how they hackedour democracy

to the use of their slick media,uh, propaganda arm, RT,

-to the use of paidsocial media trolls, -Mm-hmm.

uh, to whether U.S. personswere somehow complicit,

whether they were aidingand abetting

the Russians in this effort,

including people affiliatedwith the Trump campaign.

So these are all very importantissues that we're investigating.

Now, here's the questionthat a lot of people have is...

The Republicans are in controlof, you know, Congress.

Republicansare also technically in charge

of the House IntelligenceCommittee.

So if somethingwere to be found,

what could you actually do,

beyond just talkingto the press?

Could you even tell the presswhat you had discovered?

Well, it's very hard to-todiscuss what we're learning

in closed session.Now, it's my hope

that we do as much ofthis investigation in the open,

that we have open hearings

as wellas our closed interviews,

-our classified briefings.-Right.

Uh, becauseI think it's very important

that we keep the public informed

during the courseof the investigation,

that we not go for monthsand months on end

and then suddenly releasea report

and say to the-the country,"You need to believe this."

I think the publichas to be brought along

in the investigation.

Uh, but there are certainlythings that we can share.

The very first open hearingwe had,

where Director Comey revealedthat the FBI in itself

was doing an investigation intowhether there was coordination

-between the Trump campaignand the Kremlin, -Right.

uh, this is very importantinformation the public now has.

Uh, we also heardfrom the director of the FBI

and the director of NSAthat there was no truth

to the president's claimthat he was illegally wiretapped

by his predecessor.

So I thinkgetting this information

out in the public domainis very important.

But the most significantreason is,

the intelligence committeehas concluded

that the Russianswill do this again.

This was not a one off.

And so, we need to understandexactly what the Russians did...

-Right. -...and how to protectourselves in future elections.

So, what's the bestand worst case scenario

when lookingat the investigation?

Well, the best case scenario is

that we conductthis investigation

in a very non-partisan way,and at the end of the day,

we issue a reportthat is the collective judgment

of both the Democrats and theRepublicans on the committee.

-Mm-hmm. -Both in the Houseand the Senate.

One conclusion, not a majorityreport and a minority report

where half the countrycan believe one thing,

and half can believe another.

If that's where we end up, wewill not have added much value

to the public understanding.

And one thing I thinkwe have to recognize is,

the best way to defend ourselvesfrom this kind of interference--

not only to the U.S.,but Europe is now facing

-the same kind of meddlingby the Russians... -Yeah. if we inoculate ourselves,

if we understandhow the Russians operate.

We're not gonna buildcyber defenses

capable of keepingthe Russians out.

If the Russians want to getinto any of your computers,

they're gonna get in.

Oh, that's comforting.Thank you.

-(laughter)-Thank you very much.

-That, uh... That's...-Good night, kids. Good night.

-(laughter) -Yes. So put thatin your private e-mails, folks.

Uh, they're gonna get in.

So, you know, a cyber defense,obviously, is important.

-Mm-hmm. -But it's notgonna be sufficient.

The only thing really sufficientto protect our democracy

is to... is to inform ourselves

so that we recognizewhat the Russians are doing,

and that we make this anathemato both parties.

So both parties take the view,

we are not going to allow anykind of foreign intervention.

We are going to condemn it.

It's going to be a liabilityfor anybody

-who's the beneficiary of it.-Right.

That's the only wayto truly protect ourselves.

Now you say, "inform ourselves,"which many people can do.

But what if the presidenthas chosen

to inform himselfof alternative facts...

that state thingsthat don't fit in

with what people know?


-Surely you're kidding.This-this... -(laughter)

Oh, we ask that every day.

He would never dosuch a thing as that.

-But... -Uh, well, you know,we saw just recently

what a reliancethat a president must place

on the intelligence agencies.

It doesn't meanthat you uncritically review

-what they provide.-Right.

But when the president decided

that he needed to take actionagainst Bashar al-Assad's use

of chemical weapons,he did it on the basis

of what the intelligenceprofessionals were telling him.

And when he went to the countryto say, "This is why we acted,"

and when he saidto the rest of the world,

"This is why we had to act,"he was saying,

"Believe me, and believeour intelligence agencies.

"Don't believe Assad,

and don't believewhat the Russians are saying."

-Yeah. -And whenhe undermines those agencies,

he undermines himself, becauseothers, like the Russians--

their response was, "Are thesethe same intelligence agencies

"you were just ridiculing,

saying you didn't knowwhat they were doing..."

-Wow. -"...and nowyou want us to believe them?

This is why it's important forthe president to have respect

for the intelligenceprofessionals.

To be critical, yes,to, you know,

-not take everything necessarilyas the gospel. -Mm-hmm.

But, nonetheless, have respectfor the fact

that they risked their livesto get this information,

that it really designedto help him

and help the countrybe successful.

-(applause)-Does, uh...

Now that actionhas been taken in Syria--

a limited strike--

people are going backto the original question,

which has been askedmany times, which is:

Should a president not needcongressional approval

to go into any type of conflict?

And you-you've said thatyou think President Trump

should have to come to Congressto ask to go, uh,

you know, basically launcha version of a war in a country.

But at the same time, when itcame to Obama going into Libya,

you said that that didn't applyto what he was doing there

when it was a joint strikeon Gaddafi.

If someone strugglesto differentiate the two,

how would you reply to that?

Well, in the case of Libya-- andI think Libya was a close case,

I think Syria's a close case--in the case of Libya,

you had the supportof the Arab League,

you had a very broad coalitionof nations saying, uh,

"We want you to intervene,

-Uh-huh, -it's very importantto intervene," and I think

we had very importantregional interests at stake.

Uh, in Syria,you can make the same argument,

and in fact, not only...

President Trump has madethat argument,

but President Obama, before him,made that argument.

-Right. -But I do thinkthat the president was right,

President Obama was right,when he said

we may havethe legal ability to do this,

but the better practice isfor us to go to Congress

to seek an authorization.

Now, the president-- PresidentObama and President Trump--

have both now used force,both introduced troops,

additional troops in Syria,and now fired a cruise missile

in Syria, neither withcongressional authorization.

This is something I took issuewith President Obama as well,

-Mm-hmm. -uh, and introducedan authorization to use force

during the Obama Administration.

Could never get a debate on it,could never get a vote on it.

And you had this, I think,terrible confluence of interests

between a White Housethat didn't want its hands tied

and a Congress that didn't wantto have to vote on the war.

Somehow we have to get Congressback in the responsibility

of being a checkon the executive,

of living up to itsconstitutional obligation

to either declare waror to decide not to declare war,

not to authorize war.

So I'll be reintroducingthat resolution

when we go back inin a week or so.

-Right.-I hope there's added momentum.

I think the Republicans wereunwilling to put constraints

on the president,uh, previously.

But with this president,I think even many Republicans

are concernedwith just what he might do

-if he wakes up in a bad mood.-(laughter)

Uh, so...we may find more support

-(applause)-than we've had in the past.

You, uh...

You're not just somebody whois investigating Russia's ties

to the presidentor his campaign,

but you recently got to spendtime with him one-on-one.

I'm always fascinated...

when people get to meetPresident Trump.

I always wonder:Is there a disparity

between what everyone seesversus the man in the room?

What is that interaction like?What was your interaction like

when you met President Trump?

(sighs): Well, like muchof the last few weeks,

somewhat surreal.

Uh, it began the day before,when I was sitting in my office

in the bunker,and I had the TV on,

and Sean Spicer was talking,and, uh...


I like the story already.

That... that is where someof the best comedy comes from.

-Yep. It is.-Uh, and by the way,

I want to thank you,because these hundred days or so

of the, uh, Trump Administration

have been the longestof anybody's life,

uh, and if it weren'tfor your making us laugh,

-we would all go mad.-You're too... you're too kind.

-Thank you. You're too kind.-(cheering, applause)

-Thank you.-So...

so, I'm in the bunker,

-Yes. -and I'm watching the TV,and there's Sean Spicer,

and he says,"And we're inviting Adam Schiff

to come to the White House."

That got my attention.

-Uh, and, uh...-(laughter)

"And we have just sent hima letter inviting him

to the White Houseto look at these documents."

And I looked at my staffand I said,

"What letter?"

And another staff walked inand said, "This letter."

And so I went tothe White House.

And, uh, we had some troubleat the very start,

because I have a staff directorwho is authorized

to see everything I can as amember of the Gang of Eight,

but they did not want to let himon the White House grounds,

or into the room with me or toreview the documents with me.

Oh, wow.

Was he the guy who triedto hop the fence?

Is that what happened there?

-That was not him.-Oh, okay, okay.

-Yes.-So they wouldn't let him in.

They wouldn't let him in,

so we finally got himonto the grounds,

but not into the room with mewith the documents.

And, uh, at this point,the president's staff said,

"The president would like to seeyou; follow me."

So I followed him intothe Oval Office.

And had a chance to chatwith the president.

And he said, "Are you gettingeverything you need?"

And I said, "Actually, no."

And I explained the situationand he said,

"Well, I'm find with your staffdirector seeing the materials.

"I'm fine with everyoneseeing the materials

-on your committee."-Oh, that's nice.

And I said, I said,"Great. Fantastic."

"Yeah, I'm perfectly finewith it," he said.

And I could hear a lot ofgroaning behind me,

uh, from his staff.

And then he added, "If they'reokay with it, I'm okay with it."

They were not okay with it.

But we resolved it.

And, you know, the president andI had a very nice conversation

about infrastructure, aboutprescription drug prices.

I was, frankly, relieved to talkabout anything

other than theRussia investigation.

That is an insane story.

The fact that they are groaningbehind him.

'Cause it's almost likeyou're going, like,

"Hey, uh, Donald, you want to bepart of this investigation?"

And he's like, (as Trump):"Well, if my parents say

"I can do it,then I'll do it.

This is fun."

(regular voice):Before I let you go,

I mean, this-this isreally fascinating,

and the position you're inis truly unique.

When you look at what'shappening now, going forward,

America's position in the world,

how Russia's influencehas now grown, you know,

how Putin is seeking to stakehis claim once again.

You traveled recentlyinto Europe--

I think it was with John McCain,actually--

and you got a chance to speakto European leaders.

What is their view?

What are their concernsor what are their ideas

about what America now meansto the rest of the world?

Well, this is a key point,because one of the things

I try to, uh, always discuss

in the context of theRussia investigation,

is why people should careabout this.

This is not about re-litigatingthe election.

This is about a new strugglethat we're in,

a global struggle of ideas.

It's not communismversus capitalism, anymore,

but it is autocracyand authoritarianism

versus democracyand representative government.

Uh, Russia is at the vanguardof the autocratic movement,

and he has many imitators.

Uh, you profiled one in Erdoganearlier in the show.

Uh, but there areother emulators, uh,

in Cairo, with el-Sisi,in Hungary, in Poland,

in Marine Le Pen in France

and the oppositionto Angela Merkel in Germany.

Uh, and throughout the world,but particularly in Europe,

there are enormous concernsabout whether we will stand up

to this kind of Russianaggression and the war of ideas,

whether we willdefend liberal democracy,

whether we will helpdefend them, quite physically,

from invasion,as the Russians did in Ukraine.

And so I went to thisconference, and...

Uh, it's wonderful travelingwith John McCain. First of all,

he's-he's a genuine war hero.

Uh, and he's a terrifictraveling companion,

and one of the thingsthat I'm told about John McCain

is that he if like...if he likes you he insults you.

-Um, which...-Oh, wow. Okay.

...must mean that he likes mea great deal. Uh...

because he would usuallyintroduce me by saying, uh,

"This is Adam Schiff, he'sa-he's a good guy for someone

who gets things right about zeropercent of the time."


He likes you a lot.

Oh, he does. That was one of thenicer things he said about me.

But, uh, but he alwayshas the most interesting people

for dinner with us.And so he invited

these two slackers, uh,

Bill Gates and Bono,uh, to join us for dinner.

I've heard of them.

And, uh, I... I have to say,I have a real, uh, grudge

against Bono,because no single person

should have that much talent.Uh, just by definition,

-it leaves so much lessfor the rest of us. -Yeah.

Um, and he's not onlya great musician,

incredible philanthropist,but he speaks like a poet.

Uh, and, uh, at this pointin the dinner,

we've kind of degeneratedinto telling jokes,

and he told a jokeabout Ireland.

Uh, and then he said,"But, you know, I'm very proud

"to be Irish.I'm very proud of Ireland.

"But Ireland, like mostcountries, is just a country.

America is also an idea."

And when he said that I realizedthat it's this idea of America

that is so much at risk rightnow with this presidency.

The people around the worldlook at us and they wonder

is that the same America?Uh, those young people

that gathered in Tahrir Squarebefore their revolution

was hijacked by the Islamists--many of whom are in jail now

or threatened with jail--they look at America

and they wonder "Does Americastill speak for me?"

Uh, and that idea is at risk.

Uh, we need to understand that.

And-and I think a real core partof our investigation

is to understandhow the Russians

are challenging that idea

and what we need to doto fight back.

Wow. You needto get back to the bunker.

(cheering, applause)

-Thank you. -Thank you so muchfor being on the show.

Congressman Adam Schiff,everybody.

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