Wednesday on CNN’s “New Day,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, took aim at those in Congress and among the “Breitbart crowd” arguing former National Security Adviser Susan Rice used intelligence for political purposes, primarily against Donald Trump and his transition team.
Schiff called such accusation “slanderous.”
However, Schiff said he would also be open to the possibility of Rice testifying before the House Intelligence Committee.
Partial transcript as follows:
CUOMO: Joaquin Castro came out, Democrat, and said, from what he’s seen on your committee, he thinks people are going to go to jail.
Do you agree with that?
SCHIFF: You know, I’m not speculating about where we end up at the conclusion of our investigation. I think we’re still in the very early stages. I think our obligation is to follow the evidence wherever it leads and let the consequences fall as they will, depending on what we find.
But we are still in the process of gathering documents. We are also agreeing to an initial round of witnesses that will come before our committee. This is, I think, all we ought to say at this point in terms of any expected outcome.
We did have a couple notable developments this week that have been discussed publically. The first is the accusation against Susan Rice by the Breitbart crowd and people here within this building I think that are tossing around slanderous accusations without evidence.
That disturbs me a lot. I spent two years on the Benghazi Select Committee while they went after Susan Rice for no good reason and that now seems to be resuming.
The second development, of course, was the public report that yet another Trump person, this case, Erik Prince, may have had yet another surreptitious meeting with the Russians.
That obviously would be of deep concern to us if that took place, particularly if the timeline is correct — and that meeting took place in the Seychelles in January. That would closely follow the secret conversation that Mike Flynn allegedly had with the Russian ambassador. So those are things that need to be looked into.
CUOMO: I want to ask you about that.
But to the point that Castro made, have you seen anything that you believe could even indicate a possibility of an indictment, let alone a conviction?
SCHIFF: You know, again, I don’t want to talk about anything that we’ve obtained in closed session. You know, the most I can say is obviously there are allegations now that Mike Flynn did not report the relationship he had with foreign powers, both Russia and Turkey.
We are seeking his security clearance forms to determine whether those were filled out accurately or whether they omitted material information when signed under oath.
We know that his financial disclosures for the ethics purposes were not complete and neglected to include those information.
We also know that, you know, reportedly he was dishonest about his conversation with the Russian ambassador.
Clearly, he is asking for immunity. Clearly, the Justice Department has equities here. But all of that is in the public realm and I’m confined to talking about what is in the public realm.
CUOMO: Also in the public realm, what is going on with Susan Rice?
As you suggested, should she come before the committee and testify?
SCHIFF: We are doing what we ought to do in the ordinary course of events and that is overseeing any issues regarding minimization, any issues regarding the masking of names or unmasking of names that are incidentally collected.
I can’t comment on the contend of any material or who may have masked or unmasked names. That’s not something I can get into.
But if there is anyone in the course of our appropriate oversight that should be brought before the committee, I welcome that opportunity.
What I don’t welcome, though, is trying to besmirches the reputation of someone who served the country very well. And I don’t know what it is about Susan Rice that has always drawn the fascination and ire, suspicion and conspiracy theories of that Breitbart crowd but they’re at it again and I think it’s really a disservice to someone who is a very dedicated public servant.
CUOMO: Well, but testifying doesn’t have to be damning, right?
I could be a point of clarification for her that might disempower anything that you’re calling scandalous or slander of her or of her reputation.
At a minimum, there is some objective basis for questioning on an apparent disconnect in what she said during her PBS interview and what she has said more recently, her saying she didn’t know what Nunes was talking about, that does warrant some type of further questioning, doesn’t it?
SCHIFF: Well, first of all, what I’m taking issue with is people that are making the slanderous accusation that she was taking intelligence or politicizing it or urging the intelligence agencies somehow to surveil Donald Trump. I think that’s nonsense, as she pointed out, on Andrea Mitchell’s program.
Whether she has pertinent testimony or not, and I can’t say, you know, if she does, we’d be happy to have her come in.
But at the same time, people that are saying that, you know, she’s the Typhoid Mary of national security, that’s grossly irresponsible to say those kinds of things, particularly people who aren’t privy to any of the information. So it’s deeply disturbing when I see that kind of accusation leveled.
CUOMO: All right. So at this point you don’t know if Susan Rice is going to come before the committee?
SCHIFF: If she has pertinent testimony, I’m sure that she will be invited, as will others.
But, again, I think one point that we’re trying to keep in mind and that is, the real focus of our investigation is on the Trump connections to Russia, the U.S. response to the Russian hacking, Russians’ involvement not only in our own election but in that of our European allies.
And we are not going to lose focus on that, no matter how much cloud and dust is thrown in our way. We, as a matter of our ordinary oversight, look into issues of minimization but we are not going to let the White House or anyone else distract us from our core focus.
CUOMO: Right, a unique challenge when the chairman of your committee was doing exactly that by many indications. But Congressman —
SCHIFF: Can I make one other point on that subject?
SCHIFF: The White House clearly only wanted one person to see these documents and that person was our chairman. It reluctantly had to allow me to view it and the chair and ranking on Senate Intel.
Now I want the full committees to be able to see that and we’re meeting resistance.
If these documents are so damming or so vindicating of the president, as he suggests, why are they opposing efforts to provide them to the full committee?
I think that’s a question worthy of the White House answering.
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