Transcript: Rep. Adam Schiff on "Face the Nation," March 3, 2019

Schiff: House looking at Moscow Trump Tower, potential money laundering

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, that aired Sunday, March 3, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff. He joins us from Boynton Beach, Florida, this morning. Good morning to you congressman. The president personally--

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- attacked you yesterday at a conservative political action summit and he balked at specifically the broadening of the investigation into his finances. Can you clarify exactly what Democrats are looking for here? Is it his tax returns?

REP. SCHIFF: Well I'm not surprised the president has balked at Congress looking into his personal business, something he's tried to draw a red line around. But we have seen from our own investigation, as well as the special counsel's, just how perilous it would be for the country if we ignored or allowed him to draw red lines. The Moscow Trump Tower deal, for example, is among the most disturbing because that's something the president was pursuing throughout the midst of the presidential campaign, while saying he was having no business dealings with the Russians. That was a deal that stood to make him more money than any other deal in his life. And it was a deal where he was pursuing help from the Kremlin-- from Putin himself-- at a time when Putin was seeking relief from sanctions and that is the most compromising circumstance that I can imagine. So we are certainly looking deep into the set of issues around Moscow Trump Tower. We're also looking at persistent allegations that the Russians have been laundering money through the Trump Organization. I don't know that that's true. But if it is, again, it's a profound compromise of this president.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said you don't know that that's true. Who can answer that question for you? Who do you need to talk to?

REP. SCHIFF: Well, we'll need to talk to some of the banks that have been doing business with Mr. Trump. But like Deutsche Bank which has had a history of laundering Russian money, it was a- a bank, one of the very few if only that would do business with Mr. Trump after American banks refused. But we also will want to speak with the- the accountants, the chief financial officers for the Trump Organization and others who would have information about the Moscow Trump Tower deal, about the issue of money laundering. In fact, we're bringing Felix Sater in to talk about Moscow Trump Tower in a couple weeks. So there are any number of witnesses that can shed light on whether America's national security is compromised because the president has been pursuing financial interests with the Russians.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well Michael Cohen I know will be testifying again for your committee this week. What kind of corroborating materials do you expect him to bring to that meeting?

REP. SCHIFF: Well Mr. Cohen testified in open session, and I can't go into our closed session interview, but about his false testimony before our committee previously and how that written statement had gone through different drafts or iterations. He testified in open session that others have reviewed that testimony and we have obviously a deep and compelling interest in whether others were knowing of those false statements that he would make to Congress, whether there are any other acts or evidence of obstruction of justice which is also a core part of our investigation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Cohen said though in that open testimony, he had no direct evidence of collusion with Russia. The Senate Intel chairman also said at this point no evidence of collusion at this point. Have you seen-- do you have direct evidence of collusion with Russia?

REP. SCHIFF: Well I think there is direct evidence in the e-mails from the Russians through their intermediary offering dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of what is described in writing as the Russian government effort to help elect Donald Trump. They offer that dirt. There is an acceptance of that offer in writing from the president's son Don Jr. and there is overt acts in furtherance of that. That is the meeting at Trump Tower and all the lies to cover up that meeting at the Trump Tower and apparently lies that the president participated in. That to me is direct evidence but there's also abundant circumstantial evidence. There is for example evidence of Manafort sharing internal polling data with someone linked to the Russian intelligence services.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But--

REP. SCHIFF: Why do that? What legitimate purpose is there for things like that? Michael Cohen's own testimony was circumstantial evidence that the president was dealing with Roger Stone who is dealing with WikiLeaks and effort to--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But none of this--

REP. SCHIFF: Find out about--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Amounts to--

REP. SCHIFF: Releases of information.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Impeachment grounds for you still. I mean these are serious allegations.

REP. SCHIFF: Well I mean here's the thing and I've made this- I made this distinction all along and that is while there is abundant evidence of collusion, the issue from a criminal point of view is whether there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a criminal conspiracy. And that is something that we will have to await Bob Mueller's report and the underlying evidence to determine. We will also have to look at the whole body of improper and criminal actions by the president including those campaign finance crimes to determine whether they rise to the level of removal from office. I have said that I think we should await the evidence from Bob Mueller as well as our own work. And I'm pleased to see that Mr. Nunez who and I- he and I have profound disagreements about many things are in agreement on one thing the report and the evidence needs to be provided to Congress. I think that also needs to be made public.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Kevin McCarthy the Republican leader has called for your recusal saying that because you had contact with Michael Cohen that- that you should not be directly involved in these investigations any longer and that you set that standard. How do you respond to that?

REP. SCHIFF: Well, it- it's pretty frivolous. What McCarthy is upset about is that I invited Michael Cohen to testify and that he accepted, and our staff sat down and interviewed him before his testimony. That's what you do in any credible investigation. Bob Mueller's team sat down with--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Was that the extent of your contact?

REP. SCHIFF: --Michael Cohen seven times. The extent of my contact was just inviting him to testify and also trying to allay his concerns about the President's threats against him and his family, but our staff certainly sat down to interview him and that's what you do in any credible investigation. Mr. McCarthy, I think, can be forgiven for not knowing how to run a credible investigation for the last two years. They did none. But one thing that I think is really unforgivable and that's the degree to which Mr. McCarthy and others have prostrate themselves before this president, and not just in the Russia investigation but even more significantly now with this emergency declaration, which is a- an attack on the Congress's power of the purse. And for Kevin McCarthy, as the Republican leader, to go along with that, to so debase himself before this president at the cost of our institution--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

REP. SCHIFF: --I think, is unforgivable.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you very much, Congressman. We'll be back in one minute to take a--

REP. SCHIFF: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --look at what did happen at that Hanoi summit. Stay with us.

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MARGARET BRENNAN: When we finished our interview with Chairman Schiff, he asked to turn the cameras back on to comment on what Ambassador Bolton said about the North Korea summit. 

Congressman, what was your impression of how the national security adviser described what happened in Hanoi?

REP. SCHIFF: Well I was struck by one thing in particular and that is when you asked him whether the president had given up anything by going to this summit and walking away empty handed and his answer was that the president didn't believe so. And you asked him, well do you believe so and he said well what the president believes is all that matters. He couldn't even agree with his own president but course- of course the president did give up a great deal by going to that summit, by enhancing Kim Jong Un's prestige on the world stage, by giving up those military exercises in the last summit and getting nothing for it. And this is, I think, the result of a president who is not prepared for these kind of negotiations, a staff that is not well-prepared, and that is essentially flying by the seat of its pants and it has real world consequences. Those reactors continue to spin on, as you point out, producing more material that can threaten us and our allies. And I think that this was a spectacular failure but made all- all the worse by the president's obsequious comments when it came to the murder of an American citizen, Otto Warmbier.