Rep. Adam Schiff: "Otherworldly Situation" Where White House Uses "Exact Same Talking Points" As The Kremlin


In an interview Wednesday with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Rep. Adam Schiff said American politics has entered an "otherworldly situation" where the White House and Kremlin share talking points:

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This is such an otherworldly situation where you've got the Kremlin denying that the president of the United States was working as an agent for them.

COOPER: And echoing the whole sort of fake news argument as well. They say, you know, it's bad journalism.

SCHIFF: Oh, yes. And what we heard [Russian foreign minister] Lavrov from time to time use what looks like the exact same talking points as Sarah Huckabee Sanders. But it's worth also remembering that the Kremlin is more than capable and has put out disinformation on this very issue time after time.

The most interesting to me was when we learned from Michael Cohen recently that the Trump Tower Moscow deal which initially the president denied any business dealings and then admitted there was a deal but it ended in January, that the effort to make that deal happen went all the way until June of 2016. And it was revealed they sought the Kremlin's assistance.

The Kremlin had denied that. The Kremlin had said we never followed up on that. We never had any contact. Now, the Kremlin was on the other end of that transaction, Dmitry Peskov, and we would learn from Michael Cohen that, in fact, they had responded.

And so, the Kremlin has helped Trump and his organization cover up contacts with them, so that tells us how much we can rely on the Kremlin talking points.

COOPER: Also when you see every time the president has actually met with Vladimir Putin, it does just raise more questions. I mean, you would think for this president in particular, he would want other people in the room, other officials given the allegations against him, given the suspicions. At the very least, he would want somebody else there to be able to record for posterity what actually was discussed. That's not been the case.

SCHIFF: That's exactly right, and particularly if he was going to confront Putin on their intervention or election. You would want others to be able to say, oh, I watched the president take Putin to task but, of course, he didn't want any of that. And it kind of begs the imagination why this private, secret conversation with Putin.

COOPER: Do you think the FBI was right to -- "The New York Times" reporting after the firing of Comey they opened up -- they started looking into whether the president could be compromised?

SCHIFF: I can't confirm that report. I can't speak to that.

COOPER: If that, in fact, is true, though, is that something you think would have been justified?

SCHIFF: Well, I can certainly tell you that our primary concern from the beginning was a counterintelligence concern initially about those around Donald Trump, and then certainly about Donald Trump himself. And that continues to this day and, indeed, the more the president acts in the Russian interest, these revelations that he wanted to withdraw from NATO and kept bringing up withdrawing from NATO, I mean, that is an idea so much at odds with our national security interests on a very bipartisan basis. There's recognition of the tremendous value to our security that, you know, all the more inexplicable in the absence of some compromise.

COOPER: You and the majority on your committee have subpoena power. Do you intend to try to subpoena the interpreter or get the notes? It's my understanding I believe there's been some reporting the president actually took the notes that the interpreter had. I don't know if any notes currently exist.

But is that something do you want to pursue this?

SCHIFF: We do want to pursue this. I’ve been in discussion with my counterparts on the foreign affairs committee. Committee Chairman Engel, we've been consulting with the lawyers, also. What is the best case, what arguments might the White House make?

It looks to me on the surface that they don't have much of an executive privilege case to make. That privilege really normally applies when the president is seeking advice from his counselors and there's a policy interest in making sure that he has the free and unfettered opinion of those. That's not the case when he's speaking to a foreign leader and is speaking to that foreign leader in private. And so, I don't think that privilege applies but we want to be on the strongest possible ground.

If the president destroyed any record of that meeting, that's a separate issue and a separate problem. That gives us further potential jurisdiction to get answers.

COOPER: So does that mean -- you could subpoena the interpreter or you would?

SCHIFF: Well, we certainly could subpoena the interpreter. We could subpoena the interpreter's notes. The question is on what basis will they refuse, because they will refuse, and what is our chance of success on that? And, you know, I think we have to look at is there a method for us to get that information voluntarily?

[20:10:06] Is there a way to assure the country that the president behind closed doors is not sacrificing the interests of the country? It's always our preferences to get voluntary cooperation before we consider compulsion.

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