House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told CNN Sunday morning that whistleblower allegations that President Trump threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine if they did not investigate corruption allegations against a company run by Joe Biden's son would be "the most profound violation of the presidential oath of office... during any presidency."
"There is no privilege that covers corruption," Schiff said. "I don't know if this is the subject of the whistleblower's complaint, but if it is, it needs to be exposed."
About a possible Trump impeachment, Schiff said: "It may be that we do have to move forward with that extraordinary remedy," "a remedy of last resort."
"[Democrats] want the country to understand this is the last resort," Schiff said about impeachment. "That may be the only remedy that is co-equal to the evil that conduct represents."
Schiff's full interview Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union":
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Chairman Schiff, do you want to respond to what you just heard what the president say? He talked about how Biden had did something wrong, and that there was no quid pro quo in that conversation.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, if that is the case, then why doesn't the president simply release the transcript of that call?
And I don't know whether the whistle-blower complaint is on this allegation, but if it is, and even if it isn't, why doesn't the president just say, release the whistle-blower complaint?
Clearly, he's afraid for the public to see either one of those things. And we're determined to make sure that the public does, that the nation is protected, that if the president of the United States is browbeating a foreign leader, at the same time he was withholding vital military assistance that Ukraine needed to defend itself against Russia, and trying to get dirt on his political opponent in yet a second campaign, then the country needs to know about it.
And we need to take defensive steps.
TAPPER: Well, I said that to Secretary Mnuchin just two minutes ago, why not just release this to settle the issue?
And he said, because it would set a horrible precedent, because world leaders should be able to talk to President Trump without having those conversations shared.
Your response to that?
SCHIFF: Well, not if those conversations involve potential corruption or criminality or leverage being used for political advantage against our nation's interest.
And that's what's at stake here. This would be, I think, the most profound violation of the presidential oath of office, certainly during this presidency, which says a lot, but perhaps during just about any presidency.
There is no privilege that covers corruption. There is no privilege to engage in underhanded discussions. And, again, I don't know if this is the subject of the whistle-blower complaint. But if it is, it needs to be exposed.
And we know the inspector general found that complaint urgent. We also know the inspector general found this did not involve a policy disagreement. It's one thing if you're talking about a presidential communication that involves a policy issue.
That is not a valid whistle-blower complaint. But, here, the inspector general said, this is not what is at issue. We're talking about serious or flagrant abuse, impropriety, potential violation of law.
And there's no privilege that protects that. And the reason I think that, if these two issues are, in fact, one issue, if there is a relationship between this complaint and this issue, you have not only this illicit conduct by the president of the United States, but you also have the added element of a cover-up.
TAPPER: If the president did, in fact, in that phone call push the Ukrainian president to investigate Hunter Biden and Joe Biden eight times, as "The Wall Street Journal" reported, is it an impeachable offense, in your view?
SCHIFF: Well, Jake, you know I have been very reluctant to go down the path of impeachment, for the reason that I think the founders contemplating, in a country that has elections every four years, that this would be an extraordinary remedy, a remedy of last resort, not first resort.
But if the president is essentially withholding military aid, at the same time that he is trying to browbeat a foreign leader into doing something illicit, that is, providing dirt on his opponent during a presidential campaign, then that may be the only remedy that is co- equal to the evil that that conduct represents.
We're going to hear from the director of national intelligence on Thursday why he is the first director to withhold ever a whistle- blower complaint. And we are going to make sure that we get that complaint, that whistle-blower is protected.
And we're going to make sure that we find out whether the president has engaged in this kind of improper conduct. But it may be that we do have to move forward with that extraordinary remedy, if indeed the president is, at the same time withholding vital military assistance, he is trying to leverage that to obtain impermissible help in his political campaign.
TAPPER: Well, that's certainly the farthest I have ever heard you go when it comes to the possible need for impeachment.
But for some Democrats, as you know, it's not enough. 2020 candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted on Friday that by having failed to impeach President Trump by now -- quote -- "Congress is complicit in Trump's latest attempt to solicit foreign interference to aid him in U.S. elections."
And Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez said something similar this morning on Twitter, that the real scandal is Democrats letting this happen.
How do you respond?
SCHIFF: Well, I would just say this. There's no chance of us persuading the Senate, the Senate Republicans, in an impeachment trial. They have shown their willingness to carry the president's baggage, no matter how soiled its contents.
But I want to make sure, before we go down this road, that we can persuade the public that this was the right thing to do. And part of persuading the public that impeachment is the right thing to do is making sure that the country understands that this was a last resort.
Now, some of the folks that you mentioned have been embracing impeachment from the very beginning. I don't think that's useful in making the case to the public that we did this reluctantly.
But the president is pushing us down this road. And if, in particular, after having sought foreign assistance and welcomed foreign assistance in the last presidential campaign as a candidate, he is now doing the same thing again, but now using the power of the presidency, then he may force us to go down this road.
I have spoken with a number of my colleagues over the last week, and this seems different in kind. And we may very well have crossed the Rubicon here.
TAPPER: Take a listen to the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in an interview with my colleague Chris Cuomo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: So, you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Of course, I did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, there is Giuliani, the president's attorney, saying that he asked Ukraine to look into Joe Biden.
Your committee, before this whistle-blower complaint even came forward, was already investigating whether this request from the White House, either through Rudy Giuliani or some other way, hinged on withholding military aid, $250 million worth, which we should point out last week was released.
Have you found any evidence of a quid pro quo?
SCHIFF: Well, look, it's not necessary for us to find evidence of a quid pro quo.
The fact that Ukraine understands that military aid is being withheld, and the fact that Ukraine understands, as does the president, that the president, if these allegations are correct, his number one demand of Ukraine is that they dig up dirt on his opponent, that's all you need. You don't need an explicit quid pro quo to betray your country. And
that's what it would represent if the president was engaged in that conduct.
Now, we know that Rudy Giuliani was engaged in that conduct. But it's one thing when it's done by the court jester. It's another when it's done by the man who would be king.
So we're going to have to get to the bottom of this. We're going to have to fight to make sure that we can expose what took place on that call, what took place in any other conversations between the administration and Ukraine, where they were improperly using the power of that office for dirt on his opponent.
TAPPER: Ukraine's foreign minister said in an interview that he knows the contents of the July 25 phone call, and that, in his view, President Trump did not pressure Zelensky to investigate Biden. He said there was no pressure.
What's your response to that?
SCHIFF: My response is, look, Ukraine is in a very difficult position here.
They were very -- and have been very eager to get a summit meeting with the president. They know how reliant they are on American assistance in the war. They have the long-simmering war with Russia in Ukraine, in a country that Russia still occupies.
And they know that, while there has been a decision made to release this military aid, the decision to cut it off can be made at any time, and this president is nothing if not vindictive.
So I don't envy the position of the Ukraine president. What I'm worried about are the actions of the American president. And I don't think we can rely on a country that is so beholden to the good graces of Donald Trump to be able to level with us on this.
TAPPER: You said this week that you will get the contents of the whistle-blower complaint -- quote -- "come hell or high water" and that you're going to use whatever tools you can, including pursuing legal action, including potentially reexamining the funding when the director of national intelligence comes before Congress for reauthorization.
Wouldn't withholding funds from the intelligence community put the nation's safety at risk, though?
SCHIFF: Well, it depends on what funds we withhold.
In this case, you have the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that is withholding this complaint, in violation of the clear letter of the law. That law says that he shall transmit the complaint. He is the first to refuse to do so.
And there are funding requests that that office makes that don't go directly to national security that we can withhold.
Look, it's a blunt remedy and one that I'm very reluctant to use. At the same time, the inspector general has said, this is not only serious, this is not only credible, but it's urgent.
Now, we cannot afford to play rope-a-dope in the court for weeks or months on end. We need an answer. If there's a fire burning, it needs to be put out. And that's why we're going to have to look at every remedy.
And if these two issues are, in fact, one issue, and relates to deplorable conduct, a violation of the president's oath of office, and a cover-up in terms of this whistle-blower complaint, then we're going to have to consider impeachment, as well, a remedy here.