After Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee announced they were wrapping up the year-long investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 U.S. presidential election, ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff says that Democrats are releasing their own report of leads and witnesses that should be followed up. Schiff joins John Yang to offer his view on the probe and urgent work left undone.
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And we return now to a story we have been talking about, Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The House Intelligence Committee may have wrapped up its year-long investigation.
But, as John Yang reports, its members are split on its findings.
Judy, the Republicans on the committee have written a 150-page draft report.
Texas Representative Mike Conaway, who led the investigation, summarized the findings on FOX News.
Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas:
Yes, the Russians tried to interfere with our election process. Yes, they had cyber-attacks, active measures going on.
We could find no evidence of collusion between either campaign and the Russians. And we also have some recommendations, will have recommendations that speak to what we do with elections going forward, how important it is for Americans to be on guard. The process is sacred to our economy.
Conaway also said they found no evidence the Russians were trying to help the Trump campaign, a finding that’s at odds with both the judgment of the intelligence community and a recent federal grand jury indictment.
For the Democrats’ view on all of this, we are now joined now by Representative Adam Schiff of California, the committee’s top Democrat.
Mr. Schiff, thanks for being with us.
You presumably have seen the same evidence that the Republicans on the committee looked at. How do you — what’s your response to their conclusions?
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:
Well, deeply disappointing, but not completely surprising.
They have maintained for some time, notwithstanding significant evidence that we have seen, that there was no collusion. This merely parrots what the president says, but it’s not consistent with what we have seen.
We’re releasing a — about a 20-page document today that sets out the witnesses that should have been brought before our committee, the documents that should have been obtained, the investigative leads that need to be pursued, so the public can see just how incomplete this effort was by the House majority and how much work remains to be done.
If we’re going to provide a full accounting to the public, these questions need to be answered. We cannot rely solely on Bob Mueller. His job is different than ours. It’s his job to decide which laws have been violated and who should be prosecuted. It’s not his job to tell the country what happened.
That’s our responsibility. And by curtailing the investigation prematurely, the majority has prevented us from doing that. And what we’re releasing today ought to show the public the work that remains to be done and hopefully serve as a guide to investigative journalists and others who can pursue these leads, even while the House majority has decided not to.
We will certainly be pursuing them, regardless of what the majority does, but what they have done within the last 24 hours has made that immeasurably more difficult.
Mr. Conaway said that they found evidence of bad judgment, of bad judgment in taking meetings, but he said that it would take a spy novelist to weave that into some sort of narrative of collusion.
Now, are you saying that you disagree, based on what you have seen?
Rep. Adam Schiff:
Certainly. And even what you see in the public domain disputes that claim.
If you look at what we know from the work of Bob Mueller in the Papadopoulos plea, the Russians, through intermediaries — and, yes, it may sound like a spy novel because there is someone called “The Professor” involved — but they approached the Trump campaign in the early stages, in April of 2016, and said that they had stolen Clinton or DNC e-mails.
And they previewed the dissemination of those e-mails. Only weeks later, the Russians made a second approach to the Trump campaign at Trump Tower at the top level of the campaign, the president’s son and son-in-law and campaign manager, and said they were prepared to provide derogatory information about Hillary Clinton as part of their effort to help Donald Trump.
These are things that cannot be ignored or willed away or easily explained away. And then you add to that, of course, the president and the president’s son and their false statement about the meeting taking place in the first place, about the meeting being about adoptions, when it wasn’t.
And there’s no disregarding the actions of Mike Flynn, who secretly had conversations with the Russian ambassador to collude and conspire to undermine the bipartisan policy of the United States. And he ended up pleading guilty to a felony about lying about that.
You can’t look at those facts and say they’re meaningless or they don’t amount to collusion. Whether they amount to a violation of the conspiracy statute involving federal election law, Bob Mueller will decide.
But we need to report to the American people what happened. The reason we use the word collusion is, collusion is unpatriotic and immoral. Whether it rises to the level of a crime is a different issue. But, nonetheless, to say that we found no evidence of this is simply at odds with the truth.
And will you be laying out your argument in a — your own views, a minority report? Will you have that opportunity?
Rep. Adam Schiff:
We will be doing a couple things. We will be issuing a report that sets out the facts that we know to date. But of equal importance, we will be setting out the investigative leads that were never pursued, the investigative threads that need continued work, the witnesses that need to be called in, the documents we need to obtain to really get to the truth.
We can’t give a comprehensive report on many of these issues because the majority has not been willing to do the work. Too often, when witnesses came in and had no basis to refuse to answer questions, they refused to answer them because the answers might be incriminating, never claiming Fifth Amendment or any other privilege, and the majority was content to let them do that.
You cannot run an investigation this way. So we will set out what really needs to be done, if not by us, then by the Senate or Bob Mueller or by our committee in the future. But this work has to be done if we’re going to protect the country, if we’re going to get to the bottom of whether the Russians continue to hold leverage over the president of the United States.
Rep. Adam Schiff:
Well, we have continued to do our day job, that is, the oversight of the intelligence community, on a bipartisan basis. We have been able to compartmentalize that work.
But I think, since our chairman did that midnight run to the White House and claimed that he had obtained evidence from an undisclosed source of an unmasking conspiracy, only to have it revealed that the information he got happened to come from the White House, and since that point, the mission of the majority on our committee has not been to do a credible investigation, but to protect the president.
And that has made our work difficult, if not impossible. We have learned a great deal nonetheless, but to conduct a credible investigation, you have to be dedicated to getting to the truth. And on that, I think our chairman and the majority simply lost their way.
But, as to the other matters before our committee, overseeing the agencies, making sure they’re sharing information to protect the country, that work has gone on, and thankfully gone on without the kind of partisanship we have seen the majority exhibit over the Russia investigation.