Schiff: Are We Preliminary To A Potential Impeachment? I Believe We Are

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NBC NEWS: In an exclusive interview with Meet the Press, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) talks about how the House Intelligence Committee will precede in the wake of Robert Mueller's testimony.

CHUCK TODD, 'MEET THE PRESS' MODERATOR: James Comey testified two days after announcing the decision on Hillary Clinton back in 2016. Robert Mueller, let's see, the Mueller report got submitted some time in the spring. We've changed seasons since. It is now, it took until almost essentially four months. Obviously, you wish it had been sooner. Could you guys have done more to have made this happen sooner? And was it a mistake to let it go this long?
 
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I'm not sure what more we could've done. Of course, you know, Bill Barr withheld the Mueller report as long as he could. He put out that misleading summary. He wanted the narrative baked in as long as possible. And this is the same reason why it took so long to get Bob Mueller, it's taking so long to get Don McGahn and other witnesses. The Mueller report, the American people have to recognize, the Mueller report is not the evidence, it's a summary of the evidence. And maybe I'm just an old prosecutor, but I'd like to see the evidence. I'd like to hear from the witnesses before we make a decision about charging the president. And so I think where we are is probably most accurately described as preliminary to a judicial proceeding, that proceeding being a potential impeachment. But we should see the evidence. And we're just starting to. And yes, it's taken too long, but that has largely been by the design of the president.
 
CHUCK TODD: Was there any part of Director Mueller's testimony you found unsatisfying?
 
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: You know, look, I, I wish that he had testified in more narrative fashion, that the words didn't need to be coaxed from him as much as they did. But I think --
 
CHUCK TODD: You were talking, you were hoping it would bring it alive, is what you said I think last week, right?
                       
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: And I think that it did. But it, it, it came alive, I think, more through very short questions and very short answers rather than a great deal of description from the witness. But Chuck, I think we knew that going into the hearing. And, as you might recall, what I was saying before, we shouldn't have too many expectations because we know the sum and substance of his testimony. But nonetheless, most people have had that filtered by the misleading characterization by people like Bill Barr. So it was very important to bring him in.
                       
CHUCK TODD: There was a little bit of a linguistic debate on Friday, as you know, and I think some of your words were used as part of that linguistic debate too. You had said we're at -- I think just now, previously, we're at a preliminary stage of an investigative -- all right. Is this impeachment or not? And you're not there yet. Why?
 
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, I think that, you know, for the purposes of the law and Constitution, where we are now is most accurately described as preliminary to a judicial proceeding, and that judicial proceeding is a potential impeachment. And I say that because, you know, what we ask of the Constitution is, you know, what's the function of how we describe something? And right now, the most important thing is to obtain the grand jury material, to see the evidence. And the standard the court has set, that we have really set for the court, is are we preliminary to a potential impeachment? And I believe that we are. You know, where we'll get to an impeachment, at least in my view, where we should get to, the decision, "Okay, let's indict the President, let's impeach the President," is if we're convinced that we can make the case. And here, okay, there's no making the case to the cult of the president's personality that is --
 
CHUCK TODD: Right. 
 
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: -- the Senate GOP, but we should at least be able to make the case to the American people. And I'd like to see the evidence so I'm confident that we can do that before we say we're ready to charge the President of the United States.
 
CHUCK TODD: As you know, that is unsatisfactory to some who think you guys have been too slow. Andrew Sullivan writes this this week in New York Magazine. "Pelosi has set an extraordinary precedent that clear evidence, meticulously collected, that a president has committed what she calls, 'crimes against the Constitution,' does not constitute sufficient grounds for impeachment, even when those crimes were designed to cover up an alliance with a foreign power. If more than that is needed the impeachment power has effectively been nullified." This gets to the argument that says regardless of what you think the outcome is in the Senate that you're setting a bad precedent by not -- if this -- if you believe these are impeachable offenses, you're setting a bad precedent if you don't do it.
 
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, look, there is, I think, great weight to the argument that this is the strongest form of censure that we have and if we don't use it, what message does that send to the next generation? I worry equally though, Chuck, about the message of taking an impeachment case to trial, losing that case, having the president acquitted, and then having an adjudication that this conduct is not impeachable. So there's not a simple answer here. But the jury that I'm most worried about, not the Senate because I think that's a preordained conclusion, is the American people. Can we make the case to the American people? And I want to make sure that that's true before we go down this path because it's going to occupy a year of the nation's time. And I want to make sure that's the right decision.
 
CHUCK TODD: Is there a, is there a moment where it's too late, calendar-wise? Are we -- and how close are we?
 
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, here's the thing Chuck, that is, in a constitutional sense also, justice delayed is justice denied. They are doing everything they can to obstruct the congressional investigation --
 
CHUCK TODD: Right. 
 
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: -- having obstructed justice, so there may get to a point in the fall where we decide, "Look, he is violating a different provision of the Constitution by obstructing the Congress in its lawful and constitutional duty." That would not be a crime, that would be a misdemeanor. And the founders had a different idea of what misdemeanor meant. It's not a lesser crime, but it's misdemeaning in office. And I think violating the separation of powers would be such a misdemeanor. So this is why I say the President is doing everything he can to push us into an impeachment because if we can't get adequate answers from the court in time, that in itself will be an impeachable offense.
 
CHUCK TODD: Well, you didn't really answer, it -- so you don’t think there -- you don't want there to be a deadline is what you're saying. I guess, is that, is that fair to say?
 
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: There will -- Chuck, I'm saying there will be a deadline because --
 
CHUCK TODD: Ok. 
 
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: We will either get the answers that we need or the president's obstruction will be so complete that that itself becomes a grounds for his impeachment.



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