Rep. Schiff On Kushner Testimony: It Was 'A Productive Afternoon'
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Jared Kushner went before the House Intelligence Committee today for almost three hours. Adam Schiff of California is the ranking Democrat on that committee. And he joins us from Capitol Hill. Welcome to the program, once again.
ADAM SCHIFF: Thank you. It's great to be with you.
SIEGEL: Did you learn anything from Mr. Kushner's appearance today that you didn't already know or that you hadn't seen in his 11-page statement that he released yesterday?
SCHIFF: Yes. We have been learning with each and every interview we have, certainly some more than others. But there are some further documents that we've requested. And as result of his testimony, there will be other avenues I want to explore with other witnesses. So it was certainly a productive afternoon.
SIEGEL: One reading of President Trump's recent remarks about special prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation is that if it gets into Trump family business or perhaps Kushner family business and dealings with Russian banks, businesses, individuals, that's out of bounds. Did the questioning of Mr. Kushner today observe that restriction?
SCHIFF: I can only say, 'cause I can't go into the scope of what we asked Mr. Kushner about, I certainly believe that the allegations of potential money laundering through The Trump Organization, the potential that Russian oligarchs invested money in Mr. Trump or that the Russians used a tactic they've used elsewhere of exerting financial leverage by virtue of transactions they've entered into is something the committee has to investigate and explore.
SIEGEL: That's in bounds - that's in bounds for the committee.
SCHIFF: Yes. Yes, it is.
SIEGEL: And is it your understanding that Mr. Mueller is pursuing the same areas of inquiry?
SCHIFF: I can't speak to what Mr. Mueller is pursuing. But I think that is well within the scope of what he's been authorized to investigate. So I certainly would hope and expect that that would be an allegation that he would explore in particular because what ought to concern us the most is anything the Russians may have that they can hold over the head of this administration.
A lot of people, when they hear the term kompromat, they think of compromising information in the form of salacious videos or photographs. But you could have also a very powerful form of kompromat if the Russians are aware of either money laundering or financial transactions legitimate or illegitimate.
SIEGEL: I just want to ask you about what many people see as the coming political crisis in Washington. President Trump has publicly criticized his attorney general for recusing himself from these matters. There is much speculation that he wants Attorney General Sessions to step down or possibly be fired. If so, it's conceivable that he might dismiss or rein in special prosecutor Mueller.
If all that were to happen, and while speculative, it's not science fiction, what do you think congressional reaction would be and would it be bipartisan?
SCHIFF: I certainly hope it would be vigorous and bipartisan. And let me just say this. The Trump administration, the president himself, like to claim that they're very transparent. Often that word has a very different meaning when in the Trump lexicon. But here, I think the president is being transparent. His intentions are quite transparent. And that is he wants to force Jeff Sessions to resign.
He wants Jeff Sessions to resign rather than having to be fired so that the president doesn't have his fingerprints quite so vigorously applied to his removal. But nonetheless, he wants him gone. And I think it's quite clear why. He wants him gone because...
SIEGEL: Should he go? Should he go?
SCHIFF: Well, not if this is out of a desire for the president to rein in the scope of Bob Mueller's scope of investigation by appointing a new attorney general who would do that. And if that's what the president has in mind, I would hope the reaction on a bipartisan basis in the Senate would be to reject any nominee that will be anything less than deferential to the special counsel and commit to not interfering in the breadth or depth of the special counsel's investigation.
I would also hope that if this were to culminate in the firing of Bob Mueller for some reason, in the sense that the president gets a new AG who will do that for him, that we would immediately pass a new independent counsel law that would allow for the reappointment of Bob Mueller in a position that is beyond the reach of the president.
SIEGEL: Congressman Adam Schiff of California, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, thanks for talking with us once again.
SCHIFF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.