THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT FOR “THIS WEEK” on December 3, 2017 and it will be updated.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s bring this now to Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Shiff, thank you for joining us again.
You just heard the discussion here with General Mukasey and an Dan Abrams. You have been following this for quite some time, investigating it on the House Intelligence Committee. Were you surprised by the plea deal on Friday?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: I wasn’t surprised by the plea deal. The fact, though, that it was cabin to one offense with essentially multiple lies and that one offense does tell
me as a former prosecutor that given the much broader universe of potential liability here that Bob Mueller must have concluded he was getting a lot of value in terms of General Flynn’s cooperation.
General Flynn, obviously, not a minor character here. So I think this is very significant. I think the fact that in his factual basis for the plea, he sets out that he wasn’t acting as a rogue agent. That, in fact, he was acting with the knowledge and at the direction of people who were senior members of the transition team. I think probably all of which, ultimately, ended up in the administration is very significant. And I think it indicates to me, at least, that this is not the end of it by any means.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What about that tweet yesterday from the president who we know have been told that according to the White House it was drafted by his attorney John Dowd, not the president but the tweet right now still stands.
SCHIFF: Well, to me, George, actually it is more significant if it’s coming from the lawyer. The president has shown every ability to prevaricate and dissemble on this subject, but the lawyer is going to take not only the president’s account into play, but also other that he has interviewed. And this means that what the attorney is saying is consistent between the president and the staff. The president knew he had lied to the FBI, which means that when he talked to the FBI director and asked him effectively drop this case, he knew that Flynn had committed a federal crime.
So, to me, frankly, it’s more serious coming from the attorney than it would have been just coming directly from the president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We also have this report in The New York Times today showing emails during the transition, which indicated that many others knew about these conversations that General Flynn was having with the Russian ambassador, including K.T. McFarland email where she says, “if there’s is a tit for tat escalation, Trump will have difficulty improving relations with Russia, which has just thrown the USA election to him.”
The White House is saying that’s she was interpreting the Democrats view of these matters. What do those emails tell you about the possible case the Mueller has?
SCHIFF: We have to remember the context here, which I think goes a lot to explaining why Flynn lied, and that is the Russians had just helped Donald Trump in the presidential election. And immediately thereafter, President Obama sanctions Russian over their interference in our election and you have Flynn, one of the president’s top people, basically telling the Russians don’t react to the sanctions imposed over your help of our campaign. We’re going to take care of this, and then lying about it.
So, I think it’s that context that is so significant.
And the fact that he wasn’t doing this on his own, that others within the top of the transition were knowing of it. And indeed, the president might have been knowing of it.
The best way to explain the president’s reaction when he ultimately did fire Flynn and the fact that he wasn’t upset with Flynn and the fact that he wait so long the fire him in the first place, and that what he was really upset was the press exposing the lie would suggest, I think, that the president was knowing of exactly what Flynn did.
And the question I think for Bob Mueller and for us in congress is was this directed by the president? And if so, what are the consequences of that?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And if Michael Flynn were to testify that these contacts with the Russians were directed by the president? What would that tell you, because we all know that during transitions administrations have contacts with foreign officials all the time.
SCHIFF: Well, what that would tell me is that one of the reasons that he was intervening, the president that is, with James Comey was that he knew that this would come to light and that he wanted to protect Mike Flynn lying on his behalf. And then you do get very close to a case of obstruction of justice.
So, I think that’s the significance of this context in which the president was intervening.
The more that he was involved in directing this, in being knowledgeable of it, I think the stronger the potential case of obstruction becomes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We did see the president come out yesterday and say one more time, bottom line, no collusion. Let’s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: What has been shown is no collusion. No collusion. There’s been absolutely — there’s been absolutely no collusion. So we’re very happy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: His attorneys are starting to take it step further. Jay Sekulow to The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker laying the groundwork that collusion, even if it were shown, is not a crime.
SCHIFF: WEll, any time the president has to deny something three times in a row raises a profound question about whether it’s true.
Now here I think you see the most palpable evidence of a collusion in terms of violating the Logan Act.
Now, I agree that’s not likely to be prosecuted, but let’s look at that, you have the Trump transition conspiring in private with the Russians to subvert the bipartisan policy of the United States, which was to sanction Russia over its interference in our election.
And so the question becomes if they’re willing to work secretly and privately at odds with U.S. policy during the transition, were they willing to do it during the campaign? And what we have already seen is that the Russians, through intermediaries, approached members of the Trump team, including Padopoulos, including the president’s son, and said, we possess dirt on Hillary Clinton. And we would like to have a relationship with your campaign. And the campaign responded, we would love to have that.
And days after this meeting at Trump Tower, for the very first time, Julian Assange announces he has received the stolen Hillary Clinton emails.
So, it certainly appears that what the Russians decided was that the way to help the campaign was not to giving these emails necessarily directly to the campaign, but publishing them so that the
campaign and the Russians and the campaign could maintain some form of deniability.
Now, how explicit that agreement was, if there was a meeting of the minds, would be a conspiracy that Bob Mueller will have to investigate.
But we’re also trying to get to the bottom of it, so we can give a full report to the American people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Bottom line, do you believe that Michael Flynn will incriminate
SCHIFF: Well, I do believe that he will incriminate others in the administration, otherwise there was no reason for Bob Mueller to give Mike Flynn this kind of a deal where even in a factual basis, you can see there are other crimes that could have been charged. Whether that will lead ultimately to the president, I simply don’t know.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Schiff, thanks for your time this morning.
SCHIFF: Thank you, George.