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Schiff: ‘Disturbing number’ of Trump campaign members met with Russians and lied about it

The release of previously classified FISA warrants by the Justice Department set off a new round of political fighting over the FBI's monitoring of the Trump campaign's former adviser Carter Page. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., says President Trump is counting on people not to read the documents. Schiff joins Judy Woodruff to discuss Page, a White House threat over security clearances and more.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The release of previously classified surveillance applications, or so-called FISA warrants, by the Justice Department over the weekend set off a new round of political fighting over the FBI's monitoring of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

    In a series of tweets, President Trump said the release confirms that the Justice Department misled the courts in order to spy on his campaign. Democrats and some Republicans disagree with the president's interpretation.

    One of Mr. Trump's top critics in Congress, ranking member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Adam Schiff of California, joins us now.

    Congressman Schiff, so much to ask you about, but let's start with that interpretation.

    The president is saying this filing by the Justice Department proves what he's been saying all along, that this was politically motivated, going after Carter Page, that it was based on a political — in his words, a political witch-hunt.

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    It's quite fitting, in the Trump administration, that Donald Trump would come to the defense of someone who has acknowledged — and that is Carter Page — acknowledged being an informal adviser to the Kremlin.

    Look, the FBI had probable cause to believe that Carter Page might be acting as to a foreign power, Russia. They submitted an application and extensions that were approved by four different judges that were appointed by three different Republican presidents. And there was ample evidence to warrant the approval of those five applications.

    The president is counting on people not to read them. And, of course, who has the time to read hundreds of pages of a FISA application? So the president is merely repeating falsehood after falsehood after falsehood.

    But the fact that remains the FISA applications were appropriately put before the court, and they were appropriately approved.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me just quickly play for you, Congressman, the comments of the chair of the House Oversight Committee, Trey Gowdy, yesterday. He was on FOX News.

  • Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.:

    My take is that Carter Page is more like Inspector Gadget than he is Jason Bourne or James Bond.

    Trump never met him. Trump never had a conversation with him. I'm sure he's been on the FBI's radar for a long time, well before 2016. Here's what we will never know. Bret, we will never know whether or not the FBI had enough without the dossier, the unvetted DNC-funded dossier, because they included it.

    And everyone who reads this FISA application sees the amount of reliance they placed on this product funded by the — by Hillary Clinton's campaign and the DNC.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman Schiff, the two sides seem to be looking at this and coming away with completely different interpretations. How are we ever going to get to the bottom of this?

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    Well, you have to look to the independent experts. And the independent experts that have looked at this, I think, have uniformly upheld what the FBI did.

    I know it's easy for Mr. Gowdy to try to diminish Carter Page, but he was one of only five of Donald Trump's foreign policy advisers during the campaign. The other, George Papadopoulos, they're similarly trying to say, well, he was just a coffee boy, even though he was involved in setting up meetings with heads of state for the Trump campaign.

    And, similarly, even Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman of the Trump campaign, Donald Trump has tried to diminish and say, well, he was only there for a short time.

    So this is part of the pattern with the president and his allies like Mr. Gowdy, downplay, diminish those that were having these interactions with the Russians, try to shift attention elsewhere.

    But the reality is, there is an extraordinary and worrying and disturbing number of Donald Trump both high-level and lower-level campaign people, from Mike Flynn and Manafort, to the president's own son, to Papadopoulos and Page, meeting with the Russians and then later lying about it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman, several other things to ask you about, a lot breaking late today.

    Number one, the president — the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, saying the president is seriously considering revoking security clearance for five former high-ranking intelligence and FBI officials.

    What do you make of that?

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    Well, clearly, this is an effort to punish and silence the president's critics.

    Now, this is not something you tend to see in the United States of America, not until now. This is what you would see in authoritarian governments.

    I think it is really appalling and will certainly put a chill on people both going into public service, but those who leave office and have deep concerns about the president will feel that, if they speak out, they will be punished, that their future job prospects will be diminished.

    And I think, for others who may seek to tap the talent of people who have served in the intelligence community, it will also inhibit their ability to reach out to people with experience.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I said five. It's actually six former officials, mainly Obama administration, but one from the Bush administration, Michael Hayden.

    I also want to ask…

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    But it's a new enemies list, is what it is.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Go ahead.

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    And none of us thought we would see that again in our lifetime, but this president is determined, I think, to resurrect an enemies list. And he's put his first few names on it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Another piece of news we have been addressing tonight, Congressman, is the president's threatening tweet toward Iran, saying in response to what he said was a threat from Iran to the United States.

    Where do you see that relationship going? You formerly served, as we know, on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    Well, look, I think it was a terrible mistake for the president to essentially renege on America's commitment to the nuclear deal. That was something that had caused Iran to tear down their plutonium reactor, export a lot of their highly enriched uranium, essentially lengthen the breakout time for Iran.

    And to tear that up with no alternative in place, I think, made a conflict with Iran much more likely, not less likely.

    Now, what perplexes me about this recent flare-up on Twitter with the president is, these words by Iran, which is an admittedly malign actor, are nothing atypical of what we see from Tehran.

    So, why now is the president provoking this confrontation? It certainly has the character of an effort to distract attention from that disastrous summit in Helsinki and everything that has followed.

    And one other thing I think we have to be alarmed by is, Donald Trump repeatedly suggested that Obama was going to provoke a conflict with Iran when his poll numbers were suffering. And I fear that Donald Trump may be trying to do that, in at least a rhetorical way.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just quickly, you mentioned the Helsinki summit with the president and Vladimir Putin.

    There are number of Republicans who are now saying they may not like the way the president spoke around and with Vladimir Putin, but if his actions turn out to be tough, that in the end is going to be what matters the most.

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    Well, his actions have been tough, but they have been tough on our allies. They have been tough on NATO. They have been tough on our Canadian allies, our British, our German, our French, and our Australian allies. They have been tough on Europe, but they have been soft on Russia.

    The sanctions were forced upon this administration. They were passed over the objections of the White House, and by veto-proof margins. So the president gets no credit for that, in my view, but, rather, what the president has done is essentially green-lit Russia to intervene in the midterms.

    Certainly, the message Putin got from that summit is, as long as he intervenes on Donald Trump's side, he can count on this president never having the courage or the interest in calling him out on it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, we thank you.

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    Thanks, Judy.

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