House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says he has no regrets insisting there is evidence of collusion between former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.
The California Democrat was challenged this week to defend some of his most controversial comments during the Trump administration, especially after special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation was unable to find a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Through 2019, Schiff refused to back down, even in the face of Republicans calling for his resignation as intelligence panel chairman, but the issue came up again in an interview with CBS News’s chief Washington correspondent, Major Garrett, amid reports he is lobbying Gov. Gavin Newsom to be California’s next attorney general and as Democrats gear up for Trump’s second impeachment trial next week.
He was asked if he wished he had been more precise in saying in March 2017 that he had seen “more than circumstantial evidence” that Trump associates colluded with Russia while the Kremlin attempted to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
“No, my words were precise, and they were accurate. But I give Trump credit for repeating the falsehood ‘no collusion, no obstruction’ so often that he’s persuaded a lot of people it’s true,” Schiff said on this week’s episode of The Takeout podcast. He implored Garrett to “look at the facts” to understand what he meant.
The findings in Mueller’s report “more than substantiate what I was saying,” Schiff added.
Mueller’s report, released in April 2019, shows his investigation found the Russians interfered in the 2016 election in a “sweeping and systematic fashion,” and his team “identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.” But the special counsel “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” and no one was ever charged with coordinating with Russia.
The special counsel also laid out 10 possible instances of Trump obstructing justice but did not reach a conclusion one way or the other. Former Attorney General William Barr and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that Trump had not obstructed justice.
Schiff repeated in 2018 that “there’s plenty of evidence of collusion or conspiracy in plain sight” and in 2019 that “there is ample evidence of collusion in plain sight.” Such claims were “infuriating” to Barr, who said last year that Schiff insisted on making Trump-Russia collusion assertions after the “complete collapse” of the so-called “Russiagate” scandal, which remains under scrutiny by special prosecutor John Durham.
For all of Schiff’s claims of collusion, former President Barack Obama’s spy chief and other top national security and law enforcement officials from his administration testified to the House Intelligence Committee in its own Russia investigation that they did not see evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.
Even before the transcripts were released, Rep. Devin Nunes, who is the top Republican on the panel, said their public disclosure would show Schiff told “lie after lie after lie” to the public about there being proof the Trump campaign was conspiring with the Russians during the 2016 election.
Sticking to his prior assessments, Schiff told Garrett that the evidence was “more than circumstantial.” He got specific, saying, “The Russian government, in writing, offered dirt to the Trump campaign on Hillary Clinton,” before broaching the Trump Tower meeting in the summer of 2016, which was predicated by a Kremlin-linked lawyer’s promise of damaging information about Trump’s Democratic rival in the 2016 election.
“In emails sent to the president’s own son, they describe that dirt and that effort as part of the Russian government’s effort to help the Trump campaign, and Don Jr.’s answer was, ‘If it’s what you say it is, I would love it. The best time would be in summer,’” Schiff said, recalling the contents of an email sent by Donald Trump Jr. “And the president’s son arranged a secret meeting in Trump Tower with the son-in-law and the campaign chairman to receive that help from the Russian government, and then they lied about it. That is direct evidence of certainly an intent to collude with the Russians. The only disappointment was the dirt they got wasn’t better.”
Mueller’s report detailed the June 2016 meeting involving Trump Jr., campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and various Russians, including Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. The meeting was pitched to Trump’s campaign as an opportunity to get damaging information on Clinton. A campaign accepting help from a foreign government or foreign nationals is illegal, but Veselnitskaya pulled a bait-and-switch and turned it into a presentation on Russia’s desire to repeal the Magnitsky Act, which the Trump associates considered a waste of time. Mueller declined to charge Trump Jr.
Schiff told Garrett there are “a lot of other examples” of evidence of collusion, but he only brought up one.
“At a time when Russia was actively interfering in our election with a social media campaign to help Donald Trump, his campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was meeting with an agent of the Kremlin in Konstantin Kilimnik and giving that agent internal campaign polling data,” Schiff said.
The bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that Manafort posed a “grave counterintelligence threat” as Trump’s campaign manager because of his contacts with Russians connected to Kremlin intelligence but also said, “The Committee was unable to reliably determine why Manafort shared sensitive internal polling data or Campaign strategy with Kilimnik or with whom Kilimnik further shared that information.”
Republicans on the panel concluded that “while this Volume did not find evidence of collusion between President Trump and the Russians, it does detail a stunning accounting of the FBl’s sloppy work and poor judgment.”
Schiff argued politics dictated how Republicans shrug off Trump’s role in the Russia controversy.
“Now, if the facts were reversed and the Clinton campaign were giving internal polling data to an agent of the Kremlin while the Kremlin was helping their campaign, every Republican in the country would say that was collusion. And you know something? They would be right.”
Source: Daniel Chaitin and Jerry Dunleavy, washingtonexaminer.com/news/adam-schiff-trump-russia-collusion-circumstantial-evidence