Transcript: Rep. Adam Schiff on "Face the Nation," March 24, 2019

Schiff: Mueller should be made public "ASAP"

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California that aired Sunday, March 24, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning and welcome to "Face the Nation." Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has ended, but its conclusions are still a mystery. Not even the White House has been briefed yet. Later today Attorney General William Barr is expected to release his summary of the report's conclusions and we'll share it with key members of Congress. That summary, will be released to the public, but the detailed report remains confidential at this point. What we do know, is that Mueller's 22 month investigation has led to charges against 34 mostly Russian foreign nationals. Six are former Trump aides or confidants and so far five have been convicted. We begin in Los Angeles, with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff. Welcome to "Face the Nation."

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, no member of the Trump campaign was indicted for conspiring with Russia. I want to play for you what you had predicted.

SOT SCHIFF: I think there's plenty of evidence of collusion or conspiracy in plain sight. Now that's a different statement than saying that there's proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a criminal conspiracy. Bob Mueller will have to determine that. // On the issue of collusion the- the reality is that there is ample evidence of collusion in plain sight and it has been for a very long time.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Muller does not think there is a criminal conspiracy on this front. Does it hurt your case?

REP. SCHIFF: No. As I said I have great confidence in Bob Mueller's judgment as to who should be prosecuted or who should not. We're going to have to wait to see the report and that report needs to be made public ASAP so we can evaluate the body of evidence on the issue of conspiracy and look at why Bob Muller decided not to indict. Now vis-à-vis the president, Bob Mueller can't indict the president. So the fact that no future indictments either on conspiracy or obstruction of justice doesn't tell us about the quantum of evidence. So I think we need to wait to see the report. But I also think the A.G. needs to make that report publicly available. The special counsel spend two years almost investigating this. The public has a right to know and a need to know so that we don't have to ask questions about what the evidence was on either of these core subjects of his investigation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But a- as we heard you say there even before the report was turned in, you did think that the president had committed a crime and specifically that issue of conspiracy. So is there anything that the attorney general can say that would dissuade you from that?

REP. SCHIFF: I- I never said that I thought the president had committed the crime of conspiracy. I did say that there is ample evidence, and indeed there is, of collusion of people in the Trump campaign with the Russians. And that evidence, of course, includes secret meetings at Trump Tower, the Russian delegations with the promise of dirt on Hillary Clinton, the provision of polling data to someone linked to Russian intelligence by Trump's own campaign chair. I could go on and on and on. But, again, the issue of indictment of prosecution, that is Bob Mueller's decision, and I have great confidence in him. I think we all owe him a debt of gratitude for conducting this investigation in such a professional manner. And I'm going to reserve judgment on that- those prosecutorial decisions until we see the evidence. But I have great confidence in how he's conducted himself.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will you be attending the briefing that the A.G. gives to those key members of Congress? Speaker Pelosi has said she will boycott it.

REP. SCHIFF: Look, I think the Speaker is quite right, it is not going to be satisfactory for the attorney general of the Justice Department to brief eight of us. The so-called Gang of Eight, in a classified setting and say OK we discharged our obligation we don't have to tell the rest of the country anything. That's not going to fly. This report is going to have to be made public. And of equal importance the underlying evidence is going to have to be shared with Congress, because that evidence not only goes to the issue of criminality but also goes to the issue of compromise. And remember this began as a counterintelligence investigation into whether people surrounding the president--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

REP SCHIFF: --or the president himself were compromised by a foreign power. And there's still a lot of reason to be concerned about this president's relationship with Russia and Putin. And so that evidence needs to be provided so we can make sure that we protect the country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you will boycott that briefing?

REP. SCHIFF: Look, the briefing I think we're going to get this weekend is only going to be very top line conclusions--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The one to the Gang of Eight--

REP. SCHIFF: --that aren't going to--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --specifically?

REP. SCHIFF: Well they have made no request to brief the Gang of Eight at this point.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.

REP. SCHIFF: And there may be a point down the road where there is certain information that goes to sources or methods that are of such great sensitivity that needs to be briefed confidentiality- confidentially. But that is not going to be a- a reason to withhold evidence from the American people. So we're going to make sure that that is not some ruse that the Justice Department attempts to use.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you might attend those if they are held? Though speaker Pelosi says she won't.

REP. SCHIFF: You know I don't- I don't think the speaker is ruling out that at some point down the line, there may be very specific information that needs to be shared in a closed session, either with the Gang of Eight or with the intelligence committees in House and Senate. But she is determined and we are all determined that this report cannot be buried. That no stratagem of briefing a select number of members will avoid the need for transparency here. The public--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But- but you know--

REP. SCHIFF: --ought to see the product of this work.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know though, that declination decisions are typically kept confidential and that there is a lot of information in here that will- will be protected essentially. It was- it was gained through grand jury subpoenas it's not things that can necessarily just be blanketed out there as a press release. So is this a beginning of a negotiation essentially in terms of what you're asking to be made public?

REP. SCHIFF: That's a very important question and I think what the- the public needs to understand is the rule against providing information as to people not indicted gives way when there is a paramount interest in transparency. And over the last two years the Justice Department under Rod Rosenstein made the decision that the interest in transparency and because Congress insisted meant that the Justice Department should provide over 880,000 pages of discovery in an investigation in which no one was indicted. Information about Hillary Clinton and Bruce Ohr and Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and others, Andy McCabe, that all was provided notwithstanding there were no indictments in that investigation--

MARGARET BRENNAN: That wasn't a special counsel--

REP. SCHIFF: The Justice Department--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --that wasn't a counterintelligence investigation. It was a different case.

REP. SCHIFF: Well actually- actually a great many of those documents, thousands of pages of those documents, pertained to the Mueller investigation were part of a counterintelligence investigation. There were FISA application materials that were declassified and made public. There were interviews that went into those applications and other materials that were pertaining to an ongoing investigation that had deep counterintelligence implications. So they did all of that and they cannot maintain now that we only do that for Republican Congresses vis-à-vis Democratic candidates. We won't share information, we won't be transparent about the Trump investigation. That will never fly with Congress and it will never fly in the court if we have to go to court to insist on that evidence.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It took Bob Mueller two years to come to these conclusions and there were no indictments related yet, to conspiracy with Russia. What is it that your committee can find because many will look at this and just say Democrats are purely focused on impeachment? Is that the end game?

REP. SCHIFF: That's not the end game. I think the speaker's made very clear that in the absence of very compelling evidence that there isn't going to be an impeachment. But one of the reasons why it's so important that this underlying evidence be shared with Congress is that so we don't have to reinvent the wheel, so that we don't have to go through all the same interviews as Bob Mueller and indeed there is some evidence in the possession of the Justice Department that the Congress can't get any other way. They've seized the hard- hard drives for example reportedly, from search warrants executed on Roger Stone, other materials from search warrants on Paul Manafort. We can't get much of that information except through the department. So if there's an interest and we certainly have one in Congress, in expedi- in- in expeditious investigation in Congress that information will allow us to do that. I want to say this too, that our obligation is not the same as Bob Mueller's which is to decide who to prosecute. Our obligation is to find the facts, make them clear to the American people, take corrective action, protect the country particularly if there's evidence that the president is somehow--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

REP. SCHIFF: Compromised by a hostile power.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will wait and see. Congressman Schiff thank you for joining us.