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Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff Weighs In On Release Of Mueller Report

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

For reaction, we're going to hear from Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. He's the chair of the House Intelligence Committee. He joins us on the line from California. Welcome, Congressman.

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

CORNISH: So you have said that the attorney general did a grave disservice to the country by misrepresenting significant parts of the Mueller report. Can you give us one example where you think the report you saw today differs from how Barr characterized it in his summary?

SCHIFF: Well, there are any number of ways that it really differs from his characterization. The most significant is on the obstruction issue, where Barr was suggesting, basically, that the special counsel left it to him or wanted him to be the decision-maker on the obstruction case. I think it's pretty clear when you read Mueller's own words that that was something he believes should be presented to Congress. And the, you know, sort of self-serving or Trump-serving explanations that the president was very upset - here was this investigation; it was affecting his presidency. All of that was a gloss that Bill Barr put on it that you don't find described that way by Mueller.

In fact, the portrait that Mueller paints is of a president trying to obstruct the investigation, a president who is instructing aides to lie about, for example, his efforts to get rid of the special counsel himself, the false statements about Trump Tower, all of these actions - the president's refusal to submit for an interview - paint a very different picture of the president's conduct than what we heard from Bill Barr.

CORNISH: But as we just heard from our reporter Mara Liasson, the special counsel also gave a high bar for criminality. Right? And it sounds like they are inconclusive. Where do you pick up from here with Congress?

SCHIFF: I think Mara is exactly right. One thing that does come through in the Mueller report is it's a very high bar to prove a criminal conspiracy. It's not enough in terms of the U.S. Criminal Code that the Russians offered help or, as the special counsel certifies, that Don Jr. accepted that offer because when it comes to, for example, that graphic interaction in Trump Tower New York, the special counsel found that it could not - although there was evidence of all of this - it could not prove the willful intent to violate the law that the statute required.

CORNISH: So what does that mean for you? I mean, Democrats don't sound like they're backing down from their investigations. Where do you go from here?

SCHIFF: Well, you know, what it means in terms of our committee, the intelligence committee, is - you know, our interest from the beginning was not whether something was criminal but whether something was compromising, whether it could affect the president's decision-making on Russia in a way that was not in the U.S. national security interests.

CORNISH: Do you see that in that report today?

SCHIFF: Well, what Mueller says - and he's very explicit about this - he says, the counterintelligence findings are not all included in this report. We had an FBI team, he says that was embedded with us, and they produced any number of reports about the counterintelligence findings along the way. We need to get those. Congress needs to see those.

There's certain conduct that is described that's not criminal, like the efforts to build Moscow Trump Tower, but nonetheless was deeply compromising because, as Mueller sets out, they were seeking Russian help, Kremlin help to make money during the campaign. And that's obviously a deep conflict of interest. So we need to find out what is in the redacted sections of the report. We need to get access to the counterintelligence findings that are not even in the report.

CORNISH: And to add to that, you may have the option of having Robert Mueller testify. What is it that you'd want to hear from him directly?

SCHIFF: We have requested his testimony before a committee, and it really is on all the above. That is - what were the counterintelligence findings along the way? Who did you have concerns about might be compromised by the Russians, even if it didn't rise to the level of crime, especially...

CORNISH: Are those people you'd want to subpoena?

SCHIFF: Potentially. We'd need to know who they are. Now, some of them may be beyond our reach, and Mueller does set out, in his report, people like Sergei Millian, who's been out of the country and the special counsel wasn't able to interview. But there may very well be important issues that we need to follow up on with witnesses who are available - and not just on Russia. This report obviously goes to those too-narrow (ph) questions of Russian interference in the 2016 election. There've been a number of allegations concerning foreign business opportunities...

CORNISH: Chairman...

SCHIFF: ...Finance from the Gulf and elsewhere.

CORNISH: ...I just want to jump in with - the last few seconds here because I don't hear you talking about impeachment. Is it off the table?

SCHIFF: You know, that's a decision that will be above my pay grade. But I have always felt - and I think the speaker feels this way as well - the evidence would have to be graphic and spark a bipartisan consensus that it warrants the president's removal. Given the fact that the Republicans in Congress have been unwilling to stand up this president in any respect, it's hard to see that changing here.

CORNISH: Congressman Adam Schiff, he's a Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Thank you for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRISTIAN SMITH'S "MOTOR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.