Transcript: Rep. Adam Schiff on "Face the Nation," July 23, 2017
"Face the Nation" sat down on Sunday with Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is one of the many congressional committees investigating Russia and members of the Trump campaign.
Schiff discussed what the House Intelligence Committee wants to know from President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. Schiff also discussed what he makes of the president's comments that he thought it would be a violation if the special counsel looked into his finances.
What follows is a transcript of the Sunday interview with Schiff, which aired July 23, 2017, on "Face the Nation."
JOHN DICKERSON: And we're back with the ranking member in the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff. He joins us from Los Angeles. Congressman, your committee will be talking to Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law. What do you want to know from him?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: There's a lot we want to know. We certainly want to know about several of the meetings that have been alleged to have taken place. Obviously the meeting with Donald Jr. and the several Russians that we now know were in that meeting. But also his meeting that was alleged to have taken place with the head of the VEB bank, a sanctioned Russian bank. As well as that alleged conversation he had with the ambassador about setting up a secret back channel to Russia. We want to know whether these meetings took place, whether other meetings took place. We have a lot of ground to cover. His counsel has said they'll only make him available for two hours. So we expect this is just going to be the first interview.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: But there's a great many questions that we'll have for Mr. Kushner.
JOHN DICKERSON: And we have a great many questions for you. We'll be back after this break to ask them. So stand by, and we'll be back in a moment.
JOHN DICKERSON: And welcome back to "Face the Nation." We want to continue our conversation with Congressman Adam Schiff. Congressman, you are a former prosecutor. What did you make of the president's comments to the New York Times that he thought it would be a violation if the special counsel went looking into his finances?
ADAM SCHIFF: Well, I had a couple impressions. First, the president is clearly worried that Bob Mueller's going to be looking into allegations, for example, that the Russians may have laundered money through the Trump organization. That is really something in my opinion he needs to look at. Because what concerns me the most is anything that could be held over the president's head that could influence U.S. policy. That would be among the most powerful form of kompromat. So I think it is something he needs to look at. It's something plainly the president is very concerned about but clearly within the scope of Bob Mueller's investigation. And I'll say this in light of all the talk about Jeff Sessions lately. It does concern me that the president should bring this up now if it's an indication that he wants to somehow push Sessions out and get in a new attorney general who would then take Rod Rosenstein's place as supervising the Mueller investigation. If this is part of a longer-term stratagem to define or confine the scope of the Mueller investigation, that would be very concerning.
JOHN DICKERSON: Rod Rosenstein being the deputy attorney general who oversees the investigation now. Speaking of Senator Sessions, there's been this report in the Washington Post. As Senator Collins said, it's an anonymous source about perhaps an intercept that was picked up. So caution is in order. But even if the Post is right, Senator Sessions said he didn't talk about the campaign. The allegation is maybe he talked about Russia and Russia policy with the ambassador. Isn't that a perfectly fine thing for a senator to do, to talk to the Russian ambassador about policy and what a possible President Trump policy towards Russia might be?
ADAM SCHIFF: Well, you know, it wouldn't be objectionable if he had been straightforward and honest about it with the Senate. But, of course, he initially denied having any such meetings. And then he acknowledged such meetings but said that they weren't about the campaign. And I think that strains credulity whether or not that Washington Post story is accurate. I think I share the assessment John McCain expressed earlier of deep skepticism that he was being sought out in his role as a member of the Armed Services Committee rather than his very prominent role on the Trump campaign. So, you know, this is part of a pattern. If the members of the Trump team were honest, and transparent, and forthcoming about these things, it would raise a lot less questions. But, of course, that has not been the case. And now we see evidence in those emails about the Don Jr. meeting why they have been concealing these things. So quite separate and apart from the Washington Post story, I think there's a lot about what the attorney general has said that just doesn't hold much water and that we really do need to get to the bottom of.
JOHN DICKERSON: What's your response to the administration officials who say, you know, "This is an investigation where the special counsel can kind of go wherever he wants and it can go all over the place?" What are the checks on him?
ADAM SCHIFF: Checks on him are what is set out in his charter, which is, he has an investigation he's been authorized to do into Russian connections with the Trump campaign and anything that arises from that. So that's his charter. And I think all of what we're talking about is well within the scope of that. If he were to go off on a detour that had nothing to do with that, it would be an issue. But Bob Mueller knows exactly what he's doing, which is why members of both parties have such confidence in him. I don't think he's going to use this to explore things that are completely unrelated. But he does have the power to look into these financial issues that the president seems so concerned about because the Russians use their financial leverage over people to influence policy. That's what they do in Europe. It's part of why they like business leaders as heads of state because they can enter into business transactions before or during that then can be used as a way of influencing their decision making. And, of course, that would be detrimental to U.S. interests.
JOHN DICKERSON: You're speaking about this as a kind of theoretical matter. Has what you've looked at in the course of your work suggested that that pattern has more than just a possibility but that there's some evidence behind it?
ADAM SCHIFF: Well, I don't want to comment on the evidence. But I do think we need to look at each and every instrumentality the Russians have used elsewhere, some that we know that were used here, and determine, are there other ways that the Russians have sought to exercise influence? Because at the end of the day we need to make sure that our president is operating not in his personal best interests and not because he's worried about what the Russians might have but because what he is doing is in America's best interest. The fact that we have questions about this is in itself harmful. But we need to get answers to them so that the country can be confident that the chief executive's doing the nation's business first and foremost.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Congressman Schiff, thanks so much for being with us.
ADAM SCHIFF: Thanks, John.
for more features.