Rep. Adam Schiff On Donald Trump Jr. And Russia
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
OK, to another story now. The president's son has paid a visit to Capitol Hill to answer questions about Russia. Donald Trump Jr. met with Senate investigators yesterday. They wanted to ask about that meeting last year at Trump Tower in New York, the one where a Russian lawyer promised incriminating information about Hillary Clinton. Let's bring in Representative Adam Schiff. He is the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee. And he joins us via Skype. Good morning, Congressman.
ADAM SCHIFF: Good morning.
KELLY: Mr. Trump was testifying before a Senate committee, not yours, but you have seen his statement. What's the top thing you learned?
SCHIFF: Well, we expect to have him before our committee as well. And I think his statement raises a whole host of questions. Most significantly, we want to find out what led to the meeting. There are indications of prior conversations, as well as a back story. The emails refer to this being part of the Russian government's effort to help Mr. Trump. That certainly suggests that there was more to the effort that preceded it.
We want to know, obviously, what happened during and after the meeting. And also, we want to know what took place aboard that plane, when he and other White House staff and the president apparently engaged in crafting a misleading statement about what took place. So I think it's important what - how this account differs from his prior accounts, as well as a lot of unanswered questions about what went into this meeting and how it came about and what came out of it.
KELLY: Your committee heard from another witness this week. This was Susan Rice, President Obama's national security adviser. And the questions were in connection with her role in unmasking the names of Trump campaign aides. Is that a fruitful line of inquiry in your view?
SCHIFF: I can't go into the contents of the questions. I can't say that she answered all the questions that members of our committee - majority, minority - had to ask. I think we're all very satisfied with her testimony. I don't think, on the subject of unmasking, it's particularly fruitful. I think, really, the genesis of the whole unmasking inquiry that is being led by our chairman, which is separate from the Russia investigation, really goes back to the president's tweets, where he falsely claimed that his predecessor had wiretapped Trump Tower when there was no evidence of that to be found. And it was refuted again by the Justice Department this week.
I think in an effort to somehow lend credence to it, it shifted to a narrative, OK, there was no wiretapping of Trump Tower, but maybe there was some kind of reverse surveillance where there were conversations incidentally picked up and then they were unmasked and leaked. So this is an effort to chase something that was false from the very beginning. And, really, I think it's an effort to distract or create some kind of an alternate narrative.
KELLY: You mentioned the chair of your committee. This is Republican Devin Nunes. Is he recused from the Russia investigation or not?
SCHIFF: Well, he's supposed to be. He said that he would be and he would step aside...
KELLY: He stepped aside. Yeah.
SCHIFF: Yes. But he is still issuing subpoenas. And he is still, in this case, this week, writing letters to the Department of Justice and FBI, threatening to haul them before our committee and hold them in contempt, including the attorney general, in a way that, you know, leaves us all quite baffled because we've had a good relationship with the Department of Justice and the FBI. We're working cooperatively with them.
We made no bipartisan written request for information. And we don't subpoena people or parties until they refuse to comply with our volunteer requests. So quite inexplicable from my point of view to pick a fight unnecessarily.
KELLY: So are Republicans and Democrats on your committee working at cross-purposes? Are you going to be able to pull this together and get an investigation done?
SCHIFF: Well, I think what the chairman is doing is something the chairman is doing on his own initiative. Mr. Conaway and I have been working together, I think, very well. And we continue to work together and get the business of the investigation done. So we are keeping the investigation on track, but there is this external effort by the chairman which, I think, is causing unnecessary turbulence.
KELLY: All right. Thanks very much. That's Representative Adam Schiff of California. He is the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee. Thanks for taking the time.
SCHIFF: You bet. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.