Watch CBS News

Trey Gowdy says House Intel report doesn't fully vindicate Trump on Russian collusion

Trey Gowdy on congressional investigations
Rep. Gowdy says executive branch investigations are better than congressional ones 09:56

While defending a report from Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee that found "no evidence" of collusion between Russia and members of President Trump's campaign, Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy cautioned that the executive branch is better suited to investigate the matter. 

On Sunday, fired FBI Director James Comey called the report a "wreck," which prompted Gowdy to say that the criticism is unfair. 

"I have more confidence in executive branch investigations than I do congressional," Gowdy told CBS News' Margaret Brennan on "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "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."

Gowdy also faulted Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, for how he handled the investigation.

"[W]hen 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," Gowdy said. "That investigation is not likely to turn out well."

According to Gowdy, Schiff does not have any specific evidence of collusion. "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," Gowdy said. "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."

Gowdy, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, said that special counsel Robert Mueller's team is better equipped to investigate any potential collusion, which he noted is not technically a crime. The real crime, Gowdy said, is conspiracy, and while the House Intelligence committee had not found any evidence of that, it's possible that there is evidence that they had not seen.

"[T]he best we can do is say what we've learned," Gowdy said. "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."

Gowdy also pushed back on the idea that Congress should investigate Comey for allegedly leaking classified documents, but that it would be appropriate for the Judiciary Committee to ask questions of the FBI.

"Congress is not well-equipped to investigate crime," Gowdy said. "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 accusing someone of a crime, a member of Congress should not do that."

As for Scott Pruitt, the embattled EPA administrator, Gowdy said that he would gather evidence before coming to a conclusion. 

"We got documents Friday," Gowdy said. "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."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.