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Transcript: Rep. Adam Schiff on "Face the Nation", October 10, 2021

Schiff calls GOP "autocratic cult"
Schiff calls GOP "autocratic cult" 07:37

The following is a transcript of an interview with Congressman Adam Schiff that aired Sunday, October 10, 2021, on "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to California Democrat Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he is also on the panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. And the author of a new book, Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could. We'll get into all of that shortly. But Congressman, I want to start on the economy. You just heard the public doesn't really know what's in this massive spending bill Democrats are trying to muscle through along party lines. Isn't this a significant problem for the party?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF : I can't quarrel with any of the polling results. I think I hear the same thing that not enough Americans know what's in this bill, but when they find out they really applaud what's in it, in particular, expanding Medicare to cover hearing and dental and vision care, lowering prescription drug prices, expanding family and paid medical leave, as well as childcare and lifting children out of poverty. So, the provisions of the bill are hugely popular, but there's been so much fixation on what's the number that the House and Senate are going to agree to, what's the number that Democrats can come together on? I do think this is a very short-lived problem. We're going to get both of these bills passed. They're going to be enormously important to the economy. And once we do, we're not going to make the mistake I think we did with the Affordable Care Act. We're going to go out and we're going to promote this and let people know how it's directly impacting them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But don't Democrats need to get ahead of that messaging now? I mean, you have unified control. This is going- you need to show you can govern.

REP. SCHIFF: Well, that's exactly right. And we do. And one thing that I think President Biden has been pitch perfect on that all of us need to amplify is, this is- you know, first and foremost about helping Americans get through this awful pandemic and helping their families cope and survive economically. But it is also key to the pro-democracy agenda that we have, and that is we have to show that our democracy can deliver

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, but that's the challenge is when you're doing it only on party lines, it once again looks to people at home like, they can't get along, Washington's not working again.

REP. SCHIFF: Well, look, we have a Republican Party that is now an autocratic cult around Donald Trump. It is not interested in governing. It's not interested in even maintaining the solvency in the credit worthiness of the country. And we have to recognize that they're not interested in governing. And so we're going to govern, we're going to have to do it. And if we have to do it with our own votes, we will do that. But we need to show that democracy delivers, that it can help people put food on the table, that it can address these huge disparities in income. There's so much reason why our democracy is at this fragile point right now, and we need to foremost deliver on the economy, but also on voting rights and stop these efforts to disenfranchise people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You just made an incredible statement about an autocratic cult. This is one of the themes in your book. You aren't often compared to conservative writers like Robert Kagan, but you come to basically the same conclusion he just did in a very widely read essay where he says essentially that it's the Republican Party that is trying to lay the groundwork to challenge the next few elections. You say preparing the battlefield for the struggle to overturn the election, should they regain majorities in Congress, they might be successful. You're saying we're on the cusp of a constitutional crisis?

REP. SCHIFF: Yes. And this is really why I wrote the book because I want it to sound the alarm that our democracy is hanging by a thread right now as a member of the Jan. 6 committee. You know, I have to acknowledge there may be another violent attack on the Capitol, but what is even more pressing a threat is what we see Republicans doing around the country taking this big lie about the last election and running with it. And I wanted to tell the story in this book about how- how does that happen, how in four short years does our democracy become so threatened? And one of the terrible realizations for me is that so many of the people I worked with across the aisle, who I admired and respected because I believe that they believed what they were saying, turned out not to believe it at all. That the only thing that they cared about was the maintenance of their power or position. And I want to show people how that happens, how people start by making small compromises of their morality and their values and their ideology and end up completely capitulating because one of the things we discovered in the impeachment trial, but really both trials is that there's nothing wrong about our constitution. The provisions are brilliant. But unless they're animated by people who- who give content to their oath that- that understand the importance of right and wrong, none of it works. And right now, we saw Grassley in Iowa yesterday, unable to condemn the president's effort to- to get the Justice Department to overturn the election. Scalise this morning, another Republican leader unable to acknowledge that the election wasn't stolen. It's these personal capitulations that are putting our country at risk.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that's a shift from where Sen. Grassley, who accepted the president- former president's endorsement, was right after the events of Jan. 6. But I want to come back to where you lay blame because you say it's "we, the country who made Donald Trump possible. We- he would not have been able to batter and break so many of our democratic norms had we not let him. Had we not been capable of endless rationalization, had we not forgotten why we came to office in the first place." What responsibility do you think Democrats have for damaging the faith of the country as well?

REP. SCHIFF: Look, I think Democrats have been defending our democracy for the last five years. We have put up a valiant fight for the heart and soul of this country, so I really can't lay the blame at the Democratic Party.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You don't take any responsibility. 

REP. SCHIFF: Well, look, I- as I acknowledge in my book, there are lots of things I could have done differently or better. But at the end of the day, one of our two great parties has completely abandoned its ideology. It has made itself an anti-truth, anti-democratic cult of the former president, and the responsibility is on that party to once again become a party of ideas. And there are some hopeful signs. And one of the things I want to emphasize in the book too is there are also some great profiles in courage that emerge from this period. One of them you're going to have on your show later today, Fiona Hill. But Marie Yovanovitch and Alexander Vindman, people like Dan Coats, you know, Republicans like Dan Coats, who- who did their duty, defended the intelligence community wouldn't carry out the president's big lies. And we need to be inspired by those examples because we all have a role to play right now in the preservation of this democracy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Before I let you go, I need to ask you about the Jan. 6 committee. When will you get hold of the documents that the White House has said they're okay with Congress taking the Trump era documents?

REP. SCHIFF: Well, very soon, I hope, and I--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What are you looking for?

REP. SCHIFF: --I applaud the Biden administration for not asserting executive privilege, not trying to, because it's protecting its own prerogative, deprive the American people of the full facts. So, hats off to the administration. We should, I think, get those documents soon because the sitting president has the primary say in executive privilege. We also want to make sure that these witnesses come in and testify, and we are prepared to go forward and urge the Justice Department to criminally prosecute anyone who does not do their lawful duty.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will watch that carefully. Congressman, thank you for your time today. We'll be back in a minute.

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