House Democrats Want Robert Mueller To Testify About His Report NPR's David Greene talks to Democratic House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff about Democrats' plans to get the White House to comply with their subpoenas. NPR's Tamara Keith weighs in.
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House Democrats Want Robert Mueller To Testify About His Report

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House Democrats Want Robert Mueller To Testify About His Report

House Democrats Want Robert Mueller To Testify About His Report

House Democrats Want Robert Mueller To Testify About His Report

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NPR's David Greene talks to Democratic House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff about Democrats' plans to get the White House to comply with their subpoenas. NPR's Tamara Keith weighs in.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

President Trump's latest nickname for Democrats - crazed lunatics. He tweeted that their argument that we're in a constitutional crisis is, quote, "a giant scam" and, quote, "a treasonous hoax." This was part of a presidential Twitter tirade yesterday in response to Democrats demands for documents and more testimony, largely related to the special counsel's report.

Now, one of the president's fiercest critics in Congress also has a lot of power to decide who is called to testify and when. He chairs the House Intelligence Committee. It's Congressman Adam Schiff of California, and he joins us this morning. Congressman, welcome back.

ADAM SCHIFF: Thank you. Great to be with you.

GREENE: I want to try and put all this in context if I can. If we look back during the Obama presidency, there were Republicans in Congress demanding documents about the Fast and Furious program from then-Attorney General Eric Holder. They held him in contempt. You, at the time, said the Obama administration was just respectfully refusing to provide documents that they could not provide. What is different here?

SCHIFF: Well, everything is different. During the Obama administration, the administration made available dozens and dozens of witnesses on a whole host of oversight topics that the Republicans had urged them to come in (ph). They didn't even require these witnesses to be subpoenaed in the Fast and Furious case, even though the investigation, I think, was meritless. Nonetheless, they provided thousands and thousands of documents that made witnesses available to testify, so the contrast couldn't be sharper here.

But the - I think the more apparent conflict is not between Fast and Furious and today but between today and last year, when the Republican Congress sought records from Rod Rosenstein in the Clinton email investigation and in the Mueller investigation and the Justice Department provided over a million documents to the Republican Congress. Now they won't provide 450 pages to a Democratic Congress.

GREENE: But they have - we should say they've provided, I mean, a redacted copy of the special counsel's report. Don't - haven't you had access to some pretty key witnesses, including the attorney general himself? I guess I'm just wondering - I mean, he testified once. What more do you want to ask Attorney General Barr that you haven't asked yet?

SCHIFF: Well - but I mean, let's not gloss over the fact that in response to the Republican request last session, they provided a million pages of discovery in the same categories, most of which they are saying they are not allowed to provide discovery to the Democrats. So those million pages included pages about people who are not indicted, people whose privacy interests were at stake - people like Peter Strzok and Lisa Page had their private text messages provided to the public and to the Congress. There were investigatory materials on a pending case, the Mueller investigation, FISA applications and interviews. So all...

GREENE: But they do have the legal right to say that the grand jury materials are something that they believe is not something they could provide. I mean, I know that you disagree with them. But is this really a constitutional crisis, as some Democrats are calling this, or is this a difference of opinion that might have to be worked out in the courts?

SCHIFF: Well, you know, the attorney general is being disingenuous with the public when he says he's prohibited from providing grand jury material. There's nothing prohibiting him from doing what his predecessor did, which is go to court with the Congress and say we would like to provide these materials. No court would turn them down.

Barr promised he would be as transparent as law and policy allows, and law and policy allows him to do that. They've made the affirmative choice not to provide these materials to Congress. And yes, Barr has come in and testified, and he has lied to the Congress. That's not exactly transparency. The questions that he were asked were quite direct by Charlie Crist and others, and he gave directly false answers. So look...

GREENE: What more do you want ask him, though? I mean, is it just about - I mean, this disagreement over whether he lied? Or - what else do you want?

SCHIFF: We want the underlying evidence, so we want the full report so that we can do our oversight jobs. We don't want him to stand in the way of people like Doug McGahn (ph) - Don McGahn coming to testify and other witnesses, as well. We don't want to be stonewalled.

And of course, this goes well beyond the issues of the Russia investigation and obstruction of justice. It goes to all of our other oversight responsibilities. It goes to the granting of security clearances to people that the intelligence agencies said should never have them. It goes to a host of other oversight involving violations of the Emoluments Clause.

It's not just that they're saying no to the grand jury material; they're saying no to everything. And yes, that brings us to the threshold of a crisis. We'll be in a full-blown crisis if the courts rule against the Trump administration and they still refuse to comply.

GREENE: Can I just ask you - I want to play a little tape and finish with this. This is tape of someone we spoke to this morning who used to have your job. It's Congressman Mike Rogers, former congressman who chaired your committee as a Republican, talking about avoiding partisanship on this committee.

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MIKE ROGERS: Because these issues tend to be very sensitive, the information that you're exposed to is very, very sensitive. And the issues are always hard. There is no - it seems you're always brushing up against the gray area in the intelligence business. And so it's really important to make sure they're following the law and they get the support that they need. So that bipartisanship or nonpartisanship, as you said, is critically important.

GREENE: He said it's really important to avoid partisan rock-throwing in this job. You have been accused by your critics of being a partisan rock-thrower. Convince the American public that you are not.

SCHIFF: Well, you know, I think if you look at my record in Congress, you'll see that's not my profile. But what I did have to deal with over the last few years - and I still do - is a ranking member Devin Nunes and some of my ranking - some of my Republican colleagues who have viewed their responsibility as it pertains to the Russia investigation as being essentially defense counsel for the president. And that has created a partisan rift.

But I will say this - you know, we have been able to do the other work of the committee, which is really the vast majority of the work of the committee, in a nonpartisan way and produced our intelligence, annual authorization bills on a very bipartisan basis. So you know, we are able to compartmentalize the conflict over Russia, but we cannot diminish its significance. And the significance is we've had a special counsel do a thorough investigation and now report potential crimes to Congress involving obstruction of justice, and the administration will not allow us to do our oversight work.

And I will say this. We have worked to get that information on a bipartisan way from the administration, and I hope that will continue.

GREENE: Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks so much.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

GREENE: I want to bring in NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Tam, this question of constitutional crisis that Democrats are bringing up - can you put that in context for me?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Yeah. So a constitutional crisis, as the congressman sort of alluded to, wouldn't - isn't here yet. The Democratic ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee last week was asked about this. And he says, no, it's not yet a crisis. It is currently a conflict because you have two branches of government disagreeing.

GREENE: Right.

KEITH: But you don't have the judiciary - yet - saying that the president should do something and the president refusing to do it. It could come. It certainly could come, and we could have the first judicial ruling in this standoff later this week.

GREENE: Soon. Are we expecting Mueller to testify - any news on that?

KEITH: It is still being negotiated, though the - many people hope that, especially Democrats, that he will eventually testify.

GREENE: That would be a big day. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. We appreciate it, Tam.

KEITH: Thank you.

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