Rep. Adam Schiff Weighs In On How Memo Could Affect House Intelligence Investigation
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Three days ago, the president said he would release it 100 percent. Today the White House authorized its declassification, and now the memo is out. This would be the memo from Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee alleging that the FBI and Justice Department abused surveillance powers to target the Trump campaign and to spy on Trump adviser Carter Page. The memo says biased FBI agents didn't disclose that the evidence they used to get a warrant came out of paid Democratic opposition research, and that the former British spy who compiled that opposition research was, quote, "desperate that Trump not get elected."
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Democrats and the intelligence community strongly objected to the release of this memo, including Adam Schiff, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, who joins us now. Congressman Schiff, welcome.
ADAM SCHIFF: Thank you. It's good to be with you.
SHAPIRO: You've read the intelligence behind this memo, and you've said the final product that was made public today has dramatic omissions and Distortions. What are the biggest offenses in your view?
SCHIFF: Well, the biggest offense, frankly, is all that this leaves out. Now, there are some things that are in the memo that are just plain false. But the bigger problem is it gives you only cherry-picked facts from the FISA application. Now, you can imagine with any lengthy document you can pull a piece here and you can pull a piece there and you can use it to paint a portrait that would be critical of whoever wrote the document. And that's what they've done.
SHAPIRO: So are you saying there was other evidence besides the Steele dossier that went into the FISA application?
SCHIFF: Of course. And not only was there other evidence beside the Steele dossier, the way they characterize it as if the entire Steele dossier, including the salacious allegations of this video, were somehow submitted to the FISA court - that's not correct. There were portions of the work that Christopher Steele did that there were pertinent to Carter Page that were included, and some were corroborated. And there was a lot of other information presented about Carter Page, who had come to the attention of the FBI years before he had any affiliation with the Trump campaign, in connection with a Russian intelligence operation in New York. None of that is laid out in this document.
And the FBI and the Department of Justice are quite right. It's really not only reckless, but misleading for them to do this. The procedure they used to publish this document has never been used before, and for good reason. The Congress shouldn't be cherry-picking intelligence and publishing it for political reasons.
SHAPIRO: Of course, you and the Democrats on the committee have a rebuttal memo, which is still classified, and House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he supports releasing it. Have you been given any assurances about when or if your version of events will be made public?
SCHIFF: No, we haven't. We're going to try to force a vote on it on Monday. I think the Republicans know it's really unsustainable for them to claim they're doing this in the interest of transparency but refuse to let the country see the response to it. More than that, though, this whole idea that they're just doing appropriate oversight ignores the fact that we wanted - we, the Democrats, wanted the FBI to come in and have a chance to answer questions from the committee about anything the Republicans were raising, and they didn't want to hear the answers.
So if they had concerns about anything left out of the FISA application they could have asked the FBI, was this included or why it wasn't included? And the FBI would've had a chance to say, actually, we did include this information, and if you look here you'll see we did, and this other information wasn't known to us at the time. They could give explanations, but that's not really what the Republicans wanted.
SHAPIRO: You know, one lingering question is whether the White House had any role in the drafting of this memo. The committee chairman, Devin Nunes, refused to answer that question. Do you have any insight into that?
SCHIFF: Well, I don't. Of course, it wouldn't surprise me because this whole memo business is a continuation of what the chairman began when he went on that now-infamous midnight run to the White House and then later presented documents to the White House that he said he had discovered from some secret source only to find out that the documents he was presenting he had obtained from the White House. So...
SHAPIRO: And he then recused himself from the Russia investigation.
SCHIFF: He was forced to recuse himself but never really did. And he really should have. And I think his continued participation in the investigation just brings discredit upon it. We...
SHAPIRO: And in the final seconds we have, your colleagues, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, have called on the speaker to remove Congressman Nunes as intelligence committee chair. Do you agree with them?
SCHIFF: I do agree with them, although considering the fact that the speaker of the House, who makes that decision, wasn't willing to weigh in when the FBI said that this was and the Department said this was extraordinarily reckless - tells you that the speaker is not going to look out for the - not only the institution, but the interest of justice. This rule presupposes that the president will exercise discretion if Congress should ever use the process, but clearly here you have a president who simply didn't care.
SHAPIRO: Congressman Schiff, thank you very much.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: Congressman Adam Schiff of California is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.