Schiff: House Intel will ramp up probe of Trump’s Russia ties if Dems take the House
By Sophie Tatum and Jeremy Herb, CNN
Washington (CNN)If Democrats take back the House, the Intelligence Committee will investigate questions involving Russian money laundering and President Donald Trump’s businesses, Rep. Adam Schiff of California said on Tuesday.
Schiff, the top Democrat on the intelligence panel, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room” that Russian money laundering is one area he wants to probe tied to Russia’s 2016 election interference. Schiff said it’s one issue where he didn’t know whether special counsel Robert Mueller had been given authority to look into the matter.
“The question, though, that I don’t know whether Mueller has been able to answer — because I don’t know whether he’s been given the license to look into it — is were the Russians laundering money through the Trump Organization?” he said.
“And that will be a very high priority to get an answer to. For the reason that if they were doing this, it’s not only a crime, but it’s something provable,” Schiff continued, noting something of that nature is an issue the Russians “could hold over the head” of the President and “that might be influencing US policy in a way that is against our national interest.”
Schiff’s comments are another sign of the different ways House Democrats intend to investigate Trump if they are in the majority next year.
Schiff said that although “Republicans walked away from the investigation, the Democratic minority has continued” its probe.
“And that work won’t stop when we take the majority,” Schiff told Blitzer, just two weeks ahead of the midterm elections.
“But we will be able to get answers the Republicans were unwilling to pursue. Records that the Republicans wouldn’t ask for,” he said.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee ended their Russia investigation in March, concluding they had found no evidence of collusion between Trump’s team and Russia.
But Democrats accused Republicans of failing to conduct a thorough investigation, and Schiff has signaled he would reopen the probe if Democrats controlled the committee. Democrats on the committee have continued to interview a handful of witnesses without Republicans over the past six months.
Schiff on Tuesday specifically pointed to calls involving Trump’s son to set up the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians that took place during the 2016 campaign.
“We know that there were calls back and forth between the President’s son in the setup of the Trump Tower meeting, and sandwiched between these calls was a call from a blocked number. And we know the President used a blocked number so we asked for a subpoena of the phone records. But the Republicans said, ‘No, we don’t want to know if the President was in the loop and approved that meeting in Trump Tower,’ ” Schiff said, adding that Democrats would handle things “very differently.”
Previously, in response to the end of the investigation, Schiff issued a “status report” that detailed documents he would request, witnesses he would call and subpoenas he would issue if Democrats had control of the probe. That included an examination of Russian money laundering tied to former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his onetime deputy Rick Gates, who both have pleaded guilty as part of Mueller’s investigation.
“The Committee’s investigation must seek to determine whether Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates’s money-laundering activities, tied to pro-Russian interests, constituted a point of leverage that Russia sought to benefit from or exploit to gain access to the Trump campaign, particularly given that Mr. Manafort reportedly offered private briefings about the Trump campaign to these contacts,” the House Intelligence Committee’s Democrats wrote.
In their report, House Intelligence Republicans argued those crimes had occurred before Manafort and Gates joined the Trump campaign.
“All of the financial crimes took place prior to Manafort serving as Trump campaign manager, and nothing in the indictment relates to any potential collusion, conspiracy, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government,” the Republicans wrote of Manafort and Gates’ charges.