Rep. Adam Schiff blasts GOP for failing to stand up to Trump, not defending the 'rule of law'

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff appeared on ABC's "This Week."

July 12, 2020, 1:05 PM

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., blasted Republicans for failing to stand up to the president and for not defending the "rule of law," after the president moved to commute the prison sentence of his longtime friend and former campaign adviser, Roger Stone.

"I think anyone who cares about the rule of law in this country is nauseated by the fact that the president has commuted the sentence of someone who willfully lied to Congress," Schiff told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" Sunday.

"It shouldn't matter whether you're Democrat or Republican, this should be offensive to you if you care about the rule of law and you care about justice," Schiff added.

Stone came under scrutiny for activity related to former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and was sentenced to 40 months in prison after he was found guilty in November. He was expected to report to prison on July 14.

While a commutation reduces a sentence, only a pardon nullifies a conviction entirely.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday announced that she intends to pass legislation in the House to ensure that no president can pardon or commute the sentence of an individual who is engaged in a cover-up campaign to shield that president from criminal prosecution.

But legislation limiting the president's ability to grant clemency has almost no chance of becoming law under a Republican-controlled Senate. It's also unclear if Congress has the constitutional authority to limit the president's clemency powers.

Schiff said he introduced legislation months ago that would require investigative files be turned over to Congress if the president pardons someone in a case in which they are a witness, subject or target.

"But Donald Trump understands that he has these Republicans cowed. They won't stand up to him, they won't defend the rule of law. And then that means that we will have to wait until next year to pass this legislation to discourage further abuses of the pardon or commutation powers," Schiff said.

When asked by Stephanopoulos if Trump's action was an impeachable offense, Schiff said it would be if Trump abused the pardon power to protect himself from criminal liability.

But, Schiff noted, "If the Republicans won't even say a word, of course they're not going to vote to impeach and convict."

Two Republicans have spoken out to denounce Trump's decision.

GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah described the move as "unprecedented, historic corruption," and tweeted, "An American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president."

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., called Trump's commutation a "mistake."

"The president clearly has the legal and constitutional authority to grant clemency for federal crimes. However, this authority should be used judiciously and very rarely by any president. While I understand the frustration with the badly flawed Russia-collusion investigation, in my view, commuting Roger Stone's sentence is a mistake," Toomey said in a statement.

Stephanopoulos asked if Schiff agreed with Rep. Hakeem Jeffires, D-N.Y., who tweeted on Friday that Trump and Stone should be indicted if former Vice President Biden wins the election.

Schiff demurred and said that was a decision Biden would have to make at the appropriate time.

"I don't envy the difficulty of that decision," Schiff said. "What's the argument not to have the person who did the directing and coordinating go to jail? But that'll be a decision Joe Biden will have to make."

Related Topics

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events