Not appropriate for Trump to talk to AG about investigation into Biden: Schiff

Schiff expressed concern that the attorney general "just might do it."

May 12, 2019, 12:44 PM

After President Donald Trump said it would be "appropriate" for him to speak to his attorney general about initiating an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden's diplomacy in Ukraine while Biden's son was serving on the board of Ukrainian energy company, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Sunday that such a move would not be appropriate and expressed concern that the attorney general -- who he said was lacking integrity -- "just might do it."

"Of course it's not appropriate [to discuss that]," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in an interview with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday. "The president of the United States is saying it's perfectly OK for him -- and he's said this before -- to go to the attorney general and get [the Department of Justice] to open an investigation of his rivals. And sadly, this attorney general has turned out to be so ... partisan and so without -- frankly, without integrity -- he just might do it."

Trump told POLITICO on Friday that he hadn’t yet discussed it with Attorney General William Barr, but also said, “It could be a very big situation."

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16, May 7, 2019 in Henderson, Nev.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

On Thursday, Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump's personal attorneys, told The New York Times, and it was later confirmed by ABC News, that he was planning to travel to Kiev, Ukraine, to seek a meeting with its president-elect, comedian Volodymyr Zelensky, to encourage him to pursue an investigation into both special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into 2016 Russian election interference and Hunter Biden's work at Burisma Holdings while his father -- who is now vying against a crowded Democratic field to take on Trump in the 2020 presidential election -- was the point man for diplomacy with the country during his time in the Obama administration. The former vice president was pushing hard for reforms in the country, specifically seeking the dismissal of a Ukrainian prosecutor who had been accused of being soft on corruption.

A spokesperson for Biden told The New York Times, and later ABC News, that Biden's push to remove the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was made "without any regard for how it would or would not impact any business interests of his son, a private citizen" and was all part of a broadly-supported U.S. effort "to root out corruption in Ukraine."

The Biden campaign declined to comment on Giuliani's travel plans, which have since been cancelled, Giuliani first told Fox News and later confirmed to ABC News.

Anticipating criticism that he was encouraging foreign interference in a U.S. presidential campaign, Giuliani told the Times, "There’s nothing illegal about it," Giuliani said. “Somebody could say it’s improper. And this isn’t foreign policy -- I’m asking them to do an investigation that they’re doing already and that other people are telling them to stop."

On "This Week," Schiff referenced Mueller's investigation, questioning if there was "something wrong with" Giuliani and the president for thinking this wouldn't be inappropriate.

"The fact that we're not even done with this investigation of the last foreign interference in our election and Giuliani, apparently with the president's -- at least initially -- knowledge and blessing, was going to get the help of another foreign government in a presidential election ... it tells me that they not only think this -- there's nothing wrong with this. If that's true, there's something wrong with them," he said.

"How about the underlying issue, though?" Stephanopoulos pressed. "There's no public evidence that the vice president -- former vice president -- took any inappropriate action to help his son, but was it right for Hunter Biden to take a job like that in Ukraine while his father was engaged in diplomacy there?"

Schiff said he doesn't know why Hunter Biden took the job, but said of Joe Biden, "There's no evidence nor has there ever been any evidence that he was doing anything but trying to get the Ukraine government to crack down on corruption.

"They’ve had an endemic corruption problem. That’s what Joe Biden was trying to address. So going after his son is just a method of going after someone the president believes is his most formidable opponent."

Late Friday night, Giuliani said on Fox News that he decided to cancel his trip, but left open the possibility of one in the future.

"I don't know, I'll play it by ear, I'll see what is going on," Giuliani told host Shannon Bream. "I am actually quite confident that the facts, with regard to vice president -- former vice president -- Biden are so compelling that there's no way he gets from here to the election, without this being investigated, OK? And he would be better off getting investigated now, where it really isn't going to affect the election. It's 17 months away."

In a statement to ABC News on Saturday, Giuliani asserted that Ukraine’s incoming president Zelensky was being advised by "very vocal opponents of" Trump.

"I concluded that the President elect is being advised by people who were very vocal opponents of President Trump and peculiarly vocal supporters of Hillary Clinton," the statement read. "Under these circumstances the meeting would have accomplished little and may be in the hands of those who might might (sic) misrepresent it."

Rep. Adam Schiff appears on a Washington Post Live discussion on the Mueller Report, April 30, 2019, in Washington, D.C.
Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

Schiff told Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that if Trump wants to "go after" Biden, an early front-runner in the Democratic primary, he can do that, but "don’t seek the help of a foreign government in your election."

"And you know, if this isn’t criminal ... then maybe we need to change the elements of that crime because we cannot make this the new norm, that if you can’t win an election on your own, it’s fine to seek help from a foreign power," he said.

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