Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Rep. Adam Schiff Reacts To Acting Director Of National Intelligence's Testimony


And this morning, after eight days, a version of the complaint was released, and the House Intelligence Committee heard from one of the central figures at the heart of this storm.


ADAM SCHIFF: Committee will come to order.

SHAPIRO: Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff was the one swinging that gavel and overseeing the hearing with Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. Chairman Schiff, welcome back to the program.

SCHIFF: Thank you. Great to be with you.

SHAPIRO: Let me first ask you about one big revelation in the whistleblower complaint, which is that after President Trump asked Ukraine's president to look into the Biden family, the White House locked down all records of the call, putting them into a separate electronic system to handle especially sensitive classified information. Have you ever heard of a White House doing something like that?

SCHIFF: No, I haven't. And I can't imagine what circumstance would make that appropriate. Apparently, this computer system was designed for classified information involving very sensitive intelligence programs, like covert action. So they clearly thought this needs to be in a place where very few people would have access to the conversation.

And that conversation really wasn't notable except for the extraordinary fact that the president was trying to get political help. So it's not as if this was classified for some other reason. This was apparently sequestered away because those who did understood just how damaging this kind of conduct would be.

SHAPIRO: What about the Ukrainian president's statement yesterday in his meeting with Trump, that no one pushed me? If he didn't feel pressure to investigate Biden in that phone call, does it make it harder for you to make the case that this was a quid pro quo?

SCHIFF: Well, first of all, he clearly did feel pressure to investigate the vice president.

SHAPIRO: Even if he says he didn't.

SCHIFF: Well, he succumbed to it by saying, during the conversation, that he would be doing that investigation and he would look forward to getting more information from the Trump - presumably Justice Department for how they could satisfy the president's wishes. The Ukraine president felt, I think, compelled to do so, and I think that's borne out by the transcript.

I would also point out the particularly difficult position that the Ukraine president is in. If the president acknowledges what is so obvious from the readout of that call, that he was being pressured by the president of the United States, and he comes out and says it, he knows that whatever prayer he has of getting any support from this president is essentially gone.

SHAPIRO: So you're saying the pressure is ongoing.

SCHIFF: Oh, without a doubt. Without a doubt. And you can see, in so many allegations in the complaint and so understandably, what a difficult position the president's actions put Ukraine in, what a difficult position it put our diplomats in. They were all trying to figure out how to navigate around this. And of course, we know very little today about the actions of Rudy Giuliani that predate and postdate this call and what additional pressure was brought to bear through that emissary.

SHAPIRO: How far are you going to go? How deep are you going to dig? I mean, Republicans are going to accuse you of digging forever until you find something; Democratic activists want you to do this quickly. How will you know when the investigation is over?

SCHIFF: Well, first of all, there's really no question about digging until you find something. The smoking gun is already out. It's in plain sight, and it's in the form of the record of the president's communication with a foreign president. And it is remarkable that after the Mueller investigation that lasted a couple of years that looked into what role the president personally played in trying to get assistance from then Russia in the last presidential election, that within two weeks, we've been able to find out as much as we have about this president's direct role in pressuring a foreign government to produce dirt on yet another opponent. So this has moved with phenomenal speed.

Now, I fully expect that the administration is going to do everything to put the brakes on, and this is more particularly true since they realize just how devastating the release of this transcript has been. But we're going to try to move quickly. We're going to try to move with focus. I fully expect, though, the president will continue to do what he has largely done in the past, which is obstruct and stonewall and delay and then, of course, blame Democrats for the delay. We feel a real sense of urgency here.

SHAPIRO: Just to be specific - I know this is not entirely your call - but do you expect that the House will vote on articles of impeachment before the 2020 election?

SCHIFF: Well, that's definitely not my call, and the timing, I think, will be dictated by the facts that are uncovered in the investigation and the speed with which we're able to do that.

SHAPIRO: But you say you already have a smoking gun.

SCHIFF: Yes, I think it is a smoking gun, but there are a lot of facts around that smoking gun. All of the actions by the president and others, like Giuliani, that led up to that call and all the actions that took place ever since, all the circumstances surrounding the suspension of that aid - suspension that Mitch McConnell had no reason why it took place; the whistleblower complaint says nobody on the National Security Council staff or others understood why that was taking place - we should get those answers.

If there's going to be an article - and I say because that decision certainly hasn't been made - but if there's going to be an article of impeachment brought and that case is going to be tried, we're going to want all the facts, all that we're capable of getting and capable of getting in a realistic period of time.

SHAPIRO: You say you expect the president to obstruct and stonewall, but in the last week, they have released the whistleblower complaint, they have released the summary of the call with the Ukrainian president, the acting director of national intelligence has testified. This does not look like an administration that is stonewalling.

SCHIFF: Well, it has been an administration that has stonewalled to a degree which none other has before, until this week. And I think, frankly, the reason why things changed this week is out - is that the club of impeachment was brought out because the history of this administration has been we request documents that we need as part of our oversight, for which there is no privilege to withhold, and they still withhold them. We subpoena them; they give us a few of the documents but by no means all. They make a few witnesses available or none at all. We threaten to hold in contempt; we hold in contempt when we get a little bit more.

But it took the club of impeachment, the threat of impeachment, to force this White House to respond to legitimate congressional oversight and allow us to determine whether the president of the United States was violating his oath of office. But I would be very surprised to see if that continues because the White House understands what a miscalculation it was about just how damaging this transcript - or not transcript even, really - this record, this summary turned out to be.

SHAPIRO: Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Thanks for speaking with us today.

SCHIFF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.