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‘Sense of urgency’ on whistleblower complaint will drive subpoenas, says Schiff

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee Thursday regarding an intelligence community whistleblower's complaint about President Trump’s interactions with a foreign leader. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his concerns that Trump tried to cover up misconduct.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Earlier today, I spoke with Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which held this morning's hearing.

    I began by asking if today's testimony gives him a better understanding of how the Trump administration handled the whistle-blower's complaint against the president.

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    Well, it did.

    And it raised profound concerns that a process that was meant to allow a whistle-blower to provide information to Congress broke down. And it broke down on the advice of White House counsel and the Department of Justice.

    Considering that the complaint involved activity, misconduct by the president, considering that Bill Barr himself was implicated in the complaint, the idea that a director would go to those two sources for guidance in whether this complaint needed to be provided to Congress shows, I think, the most direct conflict of interest.

    And that meant this complaint was withheld weeks after it should have been turned over to Congress. And it was being withheld at a time when the president was still withholding military aid, vital military assistance to Ukraine.

    So we have a problem here, but , of course, the far broader problem is that we have a president who has tried to leverage the power of his office to pressure a foreign government into helping in yet another U.S. presidential election, this time by manufacturing different dirt on a different opponent.

    And we're determined to fully get to the bottom of this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So do you have evidence that this was all suppressed deliberately to protect the president?

  • Rep. Adam Schiff:

    Well, that certainly was the goal of White House counsel, and it was certainly the goal, I think, of the Justice Department.

    After all, when you read that tortured opinion of the Justice Department, it says that the director of national intelligence has no jurisdiction when it comes to foreign election interference.

    Well, that's absurd. The Justice Department also said, essentially, there's nothing to see, we're not going to investigate it, even while it's said that the inspector generals don't have jurisdiction to investigate.

    So I certainly believe the White House and the Department of Justice are complicit in trying to keep this from Congress.

    In terms of the director, look, I strongly disagree with his decision, but I respect his career of service to the country. At the same time, when Congress says that something shall be provided to Congress, we mean it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, when — you mentioned the White House counsel. You mentioned the attorney general. Are you going to be calling them to testify before the committee, and who else in the administration?

  • Rep. Adam Schiff:

    Well, I don't want to get into our witness list.

    I can tell you that the whistle-blower has given us detailed and credible allegations, a road map, if you will, as to how to find out the contours of this presidential misconduct. That is, what happened before this call, what happened after this call, who knows the rationale that was given for withholding this bipartisan support to Ukraine?

    What about these allegations that this record of call was sequestered away to a computer that's usually used for the most sensitive information, like covert action by the intelligence community, and that there might be other things that have been similarly sequestered away, not for reasons of classification, but for reasons of concealing presidential misconduct.

    So, we know what we need to do to get to the bottom of this. And we are going to move with all expedition to do so.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And subpoena individuals, if necessary?

  • Rep. Adam Schiff:

    I have no doubt that that will be necessary.

    And we're not fooling around. We don't have a long time to ask people for compliance and then subpoena them and go through contempt proceedings. We are going to move very quickly to compulsion if we're told that there's no willingness to cooperate, because we feel a sense of urgency here.

    One thing that I think really leapt out about the hearing today is that no one, not the director, nor anyone else, disputed the whistle-blower's complaint was urgent, that it was credible, that it needed to be investigated.

    And, as the Department of Justice is out of the business, apparently, of investigating wrongdoing, if it involves Donald Trump, that is, and the inspector generals can't do it, then that is left to us to do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Chairman Schiff, now that you have been named head of House of Representatives' move to impeachment insofar as Ukraine is involved, can you give us an understanding of how that moves forward?

    Is that now going to be the main focus of the impeachment investigation?

  • Rep. Adam Schiff:

    Well, it is certainly going to be our main focus in the Intelligence Committee.

    And I think there's a general sense among the members of our caucus that this is, at its core, the most serious allegation, that it was bad enough and serious enough when the president of the United States, as a candidate, sought help from a foreign power in a U.S. presidential election, that it was more serious still when, as president, he used the powers of the office to obstruct the investigation into his own misconduct.

    But it is still a more serious order of magnitude when the president of the United States uses the power of his office to badger a foreign president into manufacturing dirt in another U.S. presidential election.

    I think we all understand the seriousness of that. And I think it's certainly the priority of our caucus that this be the top priority, that we do our very best to get all the facts, and that we do so as quickly as possible.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, just to be clear, then, this investigation into the whistle-blower is now folded into the impeachment investigation?

  • Rep. Adam Schiff:

    It is certainly being conducted under the umbrella of an impeachment inquiry. And that is that this may form the basis of an article or articles of impeachment.

    No decision has obviously been made to go forward. And that is a decision that we will make when we're more in possession of all the facts. But the facts that we do have already are pretty damning.

    And what took place before this intersection before the two presidents and what took place after, we still need to flesh out. But what we do already know, what has already been admitted to, I believe, is a clear violation of the president's oath of office.

    It will be for the caucus to decide, when we have the full facts, whether we should proceed with an article of impeachment.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, finally, do you believe that any impeachment effort has to be bipartisan in order to be credible?

  • Rep. Adam Schiff:

    Well, I'm regretfully of the view that, at least based on performance to date, members of the GOP do not stand willing to confront this president, no matter how repugnant his conduct, no matter how much his conduct may transgress the law or the Constitution.

    I hope that changes. I hope that changes. But I think that we cannot defer to the other party here, if they have abdicated their responsibility.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, thank you very much.

  • Rep. Adam Schiff:

    Thank you.

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