Transcript: Representative Adam Schiff on "Face the Nation," October 13, 2019

Schiff says whistleblower testimony "might not be necessary"

The following is a transcript of an interview with Representative Adam Schiff that aired Sunday, October 13, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're joined now by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff. Good morning to you Chairman good to have you here. 

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Good morning. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Before we move to impeachment I want to ask for your reaction to the president's decision to pull out of Syria.

REP. SCHIFF: Well I agree with my Republican colleague. I think this is disastrous. It's a complete capitulation to Erdoğan that is putting at great peril probably our strongest ally in the fight against ISIS. And that is the Syrian Kurds. They were fighting side by side with American forces we have pulled the rug out from under them. They're being slaughtered. There are war crimes being committed against them. And we're seeing ISIS fighters released from custody just as we predicted would happen. And for the president to say "well you know they're just going to go to Europe." We're not going to have an ally left after this presidency. You can imagine how Europe feels about the president of the United States saying well we're not really concerned about foreign fighters going to Europe. They're going to pose a direct threat to our homeland as well and we ought to care about our allies. This wouldn't be happening but for this impulsive decision by the president to capitulate to Erdoğan by precipitously withdrawing our forces. It's just what Secretary Mattis warned against. Erdoğan took this as a green light. And who can blame him for perceiving that that was the president's intention and the consequences will be far lasting the damage to our standing. The fact the Kurds are now entertaining going to the Russians to protect them because the Americans wouldn't. This is just an unmitigated disaster. And I deeply fear, as Secretary Mattis has said, that this will result in the resurgence of ISIS.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well I want to get to the other big topic and that is the impeachment inquiry that you are leading. Do you see this widening?

REP. SCHIFF: Well we're keeping our focus right now on the president's coercion of an ally, that is Ukraine, to create these sham investigations into his political opponent. We have discovered in very short order not only the contents of that call but also the preparatory work that went into that call. The effort to condition something the Ukrainian president deeply sought and that was a meeting with the president to establish that this new president of Ukraine had a powerful patron- the president of the United States. It was of vital importance to Ukraine was being conditioned on digging up dirt on the Biden's.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you see that as the quid pro quo--

REP. SCHIFF: Well--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --not just the military aid?

REP. SCHIFF: First of all, there doesn't need to be a quid pro quo, but it is clear already I think from the text messages that this meeting that the Ukraine president sought was being conditioned on their willingness to interfere in the U.S. election to help the president. That is a terrible abuse of the president's power. Now whether that abuse goes further that is the withholding of military aid also as leverage. There's certainly strong indications that that is true as well. And we're going to get to the bottom of it. But here you have a president of the United States abusing his power to the detriment of our national security and doing so to get yet another foreign country to intervene in our election it's hard to imagine more of a corruption of his office than that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When will you begin to hold public hearings? So, the polling that CBS has done has shown that Americans really are not clear on what to think about this impeachment inquiry over the past two weeks of work you've done.

REP. SCHIFF: Well, actually, you know, I think that the public attitudes have swiftly moved in strong support of the impeachment inquiry. And you know what we were trying to do is do a methodical and yet with a sense of urgency investigation of these matters.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the Republicans say it's behind closed doors so you can cherry pick information--

REP. SCHIFF: Well--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --to be released.

REP. SCHIFF: --the- the Republicans would like nothing better because they view their role as defending the president being the president's lawyers. If witnesses could tailor their testimony to other witnesses. They would love for one witness to be able to hear what another witness says so that they can know what they can give away and what they can't give away. There's a reason why investigations and grand jury proceedings for example, and I think this is analogous to a grand jury proceeding, are done out of the public view initially. Now we may very well call some of the same witnesses or all the same witnesses in public hearings as well. But we want to make sure that we meet the needs of the investigation and not give the president or his legal minions the opportunity to tailor their testimony and in some cases fabricate testimony to suit their interests.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You've been- well, the whistleblower has made these complaints and hand them- handed them over. Why push for this whistleblower to come before Congress? Because a- Republicans are calling for it and some Democrats would like to ask questions too but this information's already out there. Can't the committee do its own investigation without risking the identity of this person being--

REP. SCHIFF: We can--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --public? 

REP. SCHIFF: You know and I think initially, before the president started threatening the whistleblower, threatening others calling them traitors and spies and suggesting that you know we used to give the death penalty to traitors and spies and maybe we should think about that again. Yes we were interested in having the whistleblower come forward. Our primary--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Not anymore? 

REP. SCHIFF: Well our primary interest right now is making sure that that person is protected. Indeed, now there's more than one whistleblower, that they are protected. And given that we already have the call record, we don't need the whistleblower who wasn't on the call to tell us what took place during the call. We have the best evidence of that. We do want to make sure that we identify other evidence that is pertinent to the withholding of the military support, the effort to cover this up by hiding this in a classified computer system. We want to make sure that we uncover the full details about the conditionality of either the military aid or that meeting with Ukraine's president. It may not be necessary to take steps that might reveal the whistleblower's identity to do that. And we're going to make sure we protect that whistleblower.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know who was on that July 25th call? You know all the participants? 

REP. SCHIFF: I can't say that I do. But we now know what took place on that call. We are bringing in witnesses this coming week from the National Security Council, other State Department officials, to find out what they can tell us about the conditionality of this vital military assistance to an ally. The conditionality of this vital meeting between the two presidents and the president's effort to dig up dirt on his opponent. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Quickly, do you regret saying that we, the committee, weren't in touch with the whistleblower?

REP. SCHIFF: I should have been much more clear and I said so the minute it was brought to my attention that I was referring to the fact that when the whistleblower filed the complaint, we had not heard from the whistleblower. We wanted to bring the whistleblower in at that time. But I should've been much more clear about that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman thank you very much. And we will be right back. Stay with us.