Transcript: Rep. Trey Gowdy on "Face the Nation," April 29, 2018

Trey Gowdy on congressional investigations

Former FBI Director James Comey has been making the rounds promoting his new book and weighing in on the various investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee released a report on Friday finding "no evidence" of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, which Comey said Sunday was a "wreck."

Rep. Trey Gowdy, a Republican from South Carolina, is chairman of the House Oversight Committee and a member of the intelligence committee. He joined us to discuss the House investigation into Russian meddling and a number of scandals roiling other executive branch departments.

The following is a transcript of the interview with Gowdy that aired Sunday, April 29, 2018, on "Face the Nation."  


BRENNAN: And to hopefully help us answer that question -- what about Comey? -- we turn now to Congressman Trey Gowdy. He is on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees and is also head of the House Oversight Committee making him a very busy member of Congress. We appreciate you being here on set. Former FBI Director James Comey today said on NBC the House Intelligence Committee investigation that you worked on was just a wreck and the report was just a political document. How do you respond?

GOWDY: This way -- I have more confidence in executive branch investigations than I do congressional. I wouldn't say it's a wreck. The witnesses we talked to no one said that they had any evidence of collusion. And I participated in almost every one of those interviews and I'm the one who asked the questions. So from the standpoint of where these matters are best investigated I don't think it's in Congress right now for myriad reasons. One of which Margaret is when you start with a conclusion which Adam Schiff did in March of 2017 you have evidence of collusion and then you never ever share it with anyone. That investigation is not likely to turn out well.

BRENNAN: You have asked Adam Schiff for specific evidence that he refused to hand to you?

GOWDY: He doesn't have it so he can't give me what he doesn't have. Adam, before we ever started, said he had evidence of collusion. And this is exactly what he said, more than circumstantial but not direct. Let's lay aside the fact that there is no such thing as more than circumstantial but not direct. There's only two kinds of evidence.

BRENNAN: There's also no such thing as collusion, you point out in this report--

GOWDY: There's not.. 

BRENNAN: -as a legal term.

GOWDY: It's conspiracy. Which is why always ask, do you have evidence of collusion coordination or conspiracy? The crime is conspiracy. If there's collusion even if it doesn't rise to the level of a crime. My fellow citizens want to know that. It's important to know that even if it doesn't rise to the level of a crime. But there was no evidence of collusion, coordination or conspiracy that we found.

BRENNAN: Well you do write about a number of ill-advised meetings, that Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. You issue a number of recommendations and warnings about the system simply not being sort of braced for any kind of attack or attempted attack here. So what should people make of this?

GOWDY: Well the real disappointment is what we're supposed to look at four things. What did Russia do with whom if anyone did they do it? What was the U.S. government's response in 2016, and then the issue of the dissemination of classified material. Unfortunately the focus was always on that second prong. Not just what did you do but with whom if anyone did they do it. I ask a lot of tough questions on the Trump Tower meeting. I was tougher on Steve Bannon than any Democrat was. So when the transcripts come out I think my fellow citizens are going to see the Republicans did take it seriously. But when all you're interested in is seeing the president indicted then yeah that investigation is not going to turn out well from a bipartisan standpoint.

BRENNAN: And you never got to interview Michael Flynn, former national security adviser.

GOWDY: We don't get to interview anyone who's currently under indictment. Their lawyer should be fired if they allow us to interview them.

BRENNAN: So it's a fair point to make though because clearly the Mueller investigation has a broader set of people they're talking to. But the president when he looks at your report feels vindicated. Are you saying he should not?

GOWDY: I'll be careful how to phrase this. No report-- the best we can do is say what we've learned. I can't say what's in the universe of witnesses we have not talked to. And I have always maintained I am awaiting the Mueller investigation. They get to use a grand jury. They have investigative tools that we don't have. Executive branch investigations are just better than congressional ones. So we found no evidence of collusion whether or not it exists or not, I can't speak to because I haven't interviewed the full panoply of witnesses.

BRENNAN: Do you plan to investigate Former FBI Director James Comey who shared personal memos that he said were unclassified, the president now says they were classified and accuses him of a crime.

GOWDY: Congress is not well-equipped to investigate crime. I have complete confidence in Michael Horowitz who's the inspector general- that's who investigated Andy McCabe, and then he made a referral to the Department of Justice. I trust Mr. Horowitz to investigate. I've never accused Jim Comey of committing a crime. I've accused him of doing somethings that I don't agree with. But in terms of-of accusing someone of a crime, a member of Congress should not do that-

BRENNAN: But does House Oversight have questions for the FBI?  

GOWDY: -and I have not done that.

GOWDY: Pardon me? 

BRENNAN: Does your committee, House Oversight, have questions for the FBI?

GOWDY: I think judiciary would be the better place to ask those questions, and we should, but we should not interfere with ongoing IG and or criminal probes.

BRENNAN: The president said this week during an interview on Fox that he was disappointed with the Justice Department and he might change his mind and be involved. Did those comments concern you?

GOWDY: It on what he meant by it. If a president that's the Department of Justice is going to advance my agenda and I think President Obama had certain ideas with respect to criminal justice reform that Attorney General Holder did a very good job of carrying out if that's what he meant then I want the Department of Justice is going to advance my legislative agenda. There's nothing wrong with that. I think there ought to be -- I said it a number of times, prosecutors should have all the resources and all the independence and all the time they need to do their jobs, and my position has not changed.

BRENNAN: So I want to ask you as well about your committee's investigations or possible investigations at the EPA. Scott Pruitt testified this week. What is the status of oversight's probe into his behavior?

GOWDY: We got documents Friday. We are scheduling witness interviews. The natural chronology of investigations to me is gather the documents, schedule the witness interviews and then draw your conclusions at the end. What usually happens with Congress is we draw our conclusions on the front end and then we go in search of whatever evidence we want to validate that previously held wrong conclusion. We're going to do it the way I'm used to doing it. Gather the documents. Interview the witnesses and then share it at the appropriate time.

BRENNAN: So any timeline on that?

GOWDY: Things don't ever move as quickly as I would like them to. We had a little bit of hiccup scheduling the witness interviews. But I think we've reached a meeting of the minds that we're going to interview those witnesses and we got permission Friday to start scheduling those.

BRENNAN: Over at the V.A. there is a lot of talk this week about a personnel matter though there are bigger issues with the agency itself. But Doctor Ronny Jackson who was the president-- who is the president's physician was the nominee, he no longer is. He's still a government employee. He's been accused of all sorts of things. Allegations of handing out prescription drugs, fostering a hostile work environment, possibly drinking while on duty. Do you think as Chairman of House Oversight that this should require looking into?

GOWDY: I think some of those allegations do warrant being investigated. I don't think you want members of Congress deciding whether or not the prescribing of Ambien is within the course of a professional medical practice. In fact, I can't think of anybody less well qualified to decide whether Ambien should be prescribed than a bunch of lawyers. So that's- a that's- a that's a medical license issue. Hostile work environment would be some combination of the Veterans Affairs Committee and House Oversight.

But this is a pretty good example of reaching the conclusion and then going in search of the investigation and investigations that your viewers should have confidence in do it in the reverse order. You go gather the facts and then you level the allegation. That's just not what's done in our political environment.

BRENNAN: But there have been questions about background checks- repeated questions with other members of the president's staff as well. On this front, he's still the president's physician. If any of these things are true wouldn't that warrant looking into?

GOWDY: And I would hope that-that to the extent he has a security clearance it should have already been investigated. If it deals with his medical license there's an entity that should investigate that. If it deals with a hostile work environment or things intrinsic within- within that office we have an inspector general. There are a number of entities who can within their jurisdiction conduct an investigation. The notion that all of that should be done by Congress, particularly whether or not medicine should be prescribed. I really can't think of anybody you would less want makin- making that decision than members of Congress.

BRENNAN: Congressman Gowdy, always good to talk to you.

GOWDY: Yes, m'am, you too. Thank you.