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Rep. Schiff On Russia Influence Investigation


Congressman Adam Schiff is on the line. He's the top Democrat on the House committee investigating Russia's role in the 2016 election or, as President Trump labeled him over the weekend, quote, "Liddle’ Adam Schiff, the leakin’ monster of no control," unquote. That was one of more than 20 tweets the president has sent since Friday's indictment of Russians for deceiving Americans during the 2016 election. In various messages, the president also ripped the FBI, CNN, Hillary Clinton and Oprah but not Russia. Congressman, welcome to the program.

ADAM SCHIFF: It's great to be with you.

INSKEEP: How do you read the president's comments?

SCHIFF: Well, it's much of the same. Whenever there's a development in the Russia investigation, the president lashes out. He clearly views this as a threat to his legitimacy. This time, it was a very detailed indictment by Bob Mueller that really, I think, tore any veneer off the argument that the Russians were not involved, or not involved for the purpose of helping him and hurting others. It's very clear from this 37-page indictment that it was a massive Russian operation, and part of its design was to promote the campaign of Donald Trump.

INSKEEP: The president, in his first of many responses to this, though, highlighted what is not there - an indictment of anybody who worked for then-candidate Donald Trump. The indictment says, so far as we know up to this point - as far as they're willing to allege - only unwitting help from people on the Trump campaign. Do you see any room for the special counsel to go any farther than that?

SCHIFF: Yes. And it's important for people to realize that what is covered in this indictment is only one facet of the Russian active measures campaign, and that was the use of social media to try to influence opinion during the campaign to try to motivate people to get out in protest, either for or against different candidates. But there was a whole different vector the Russians used. That is, they hacked Democratic institutions. They leaked stolen documents. That's not covered at all in this indictment. And there may be a good reason why Bob Mueller did that to separate these two aspects of the campaign and the fact that he didn't allege in the one active and witting participation by the Trump campaign doesn't mean that that won't be the case in the other.

INSKEEP: Well, Congressman, you have seen some classified information on this. Do you have any information at your disposal that would suggest that this is going to lead to the witting participation or the alleged witting participation of anybody who worked for the president?

SCHIFF: Well, we know, of course, that the president was witting of Russian involvement and the hacking and dumping of these stolen documents. Indeed, the whole country was aware of it because in October of the election year, the intelligence community released a statement saying this was being done at Putin's behest. The Russians were involved in this operation. And yet, the president, then-candidate Trump, would use this stolen information on a daily basis to denigrate Hillary Clinton. We also know, of course, that very high levels of the campaign...

INSKEEP: Although - although I should say, using information that was out there is a little different than plotting with the Russians to actually get that information in some fashion.

SCHIFF: That's true, but at the same time, we know that there were conversations about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton between very high levels of the campaign. The president's own son and son-in-law and campaign manager met in that famous meeting at Trump Tower, that secret meeting where the Russians had offered to send someone out from Moscow that had dirt on Hillary Clinton, that that was part of the Russian government's effort to help elect Donald Trump. Of course, they communicated something very similar to George Papadopoulos.

What we don't know is, what did Papadopoulos share with others in the campaign? And was the message that went back from the Trump Tower meeting to the Kremlin we would love to have your help, although what you delivered at that particular meeting wasn't useful, we want more? And then very shortly after that meeting is when the dumping of these stolen documents first begins.

INSKEEP: Congressman, just about 30 seconds here, but I'd like to ask - your committee's investigation has been notable for its partisanship. There's a perception of chaos certainly from the outside. Is it getting any better in there?

SCHIFF: Well, I don't - wouldn't say that it's noted for its partisanship. We've had a real problem with our chairman who did that midnight run to the White House early in the investigation and now produced this very partisan memo that he wouldn't answer whether it was done in combination with the White House. That has made it very difficult for us. But nonetheless, we make real progress in the investigation, and we continue to move forward. And I think it's very important that we do.

INSKEEP: Congressman Adam Schiff, pleasure talking with you once again. Thanks very much.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.