House Intel Chairman Schiff 'convinced' Mueller will testify: 'That is inexorable'

Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is interviewed on "This Week."
9:24 | 05/12/19

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Transcript for House Intel Chairman Schiff 'convinced' Mueller will testify: 'That is inexorable'
As we come on the air, the battle between president trump and congressional Democrats has broken out into all-out war. A brand new analysis in "The Washington post" shows the white house is blocking 20 separate congressional investigations by filing lawsuits, stopping aides from testifying, refusing dozens of requests for documents, stonewalling on a scale that Democrats say amounts to a constitutional crisis. The president is almost self-impeaching because he is every day demonstrating more obstruction of justice and disrespect for congress' legitimate role. The president defiant, calling the congressional investigations pure politics that will put him back in the white house. They want to do investigations instead of investments. They want to do what they're doing which looks so foolish, and maybe I read it wrong but I think it drives us right onto victory in 2020. And we begin this week with one of the democratic chairmen leading an investigation, Adam Schiff of the house intelligence committee. Mr. Chairman, thanks for joining us this morning. You heard the president right there. He says you all are going to elect him in 2020. That's not going to happen. I don't think this country could survive another four years of a president like this who gets up every day trying to find new and inventive ways to divide us. He doesn't seem to understand that a fundamental aspect of his job is to try to make us a more perfect union, but that's not at all where he's coming from. He's going to be defeated. He has to be defeated because I don't know how much more our democratic institutions can take of this kind of attack on the rule of law. He's made it pretty clear he's not going to cooperate with most of the congressional investigations going on right now, and during the Obama administration he declared executive privilege this week on the attorney general Barr's testimony and during the Obama administration when the house GOP held the attorney general in contempt, Eric Holder in contempt, for failing to turn over documents from the fast and furious program, you called it partisan abuse. Here's what you said. The justice department, after providing 8,000 documents and extensive testimony, is now being required to turn over privileged materials, and like all administrations before it, it has reluctantly used executive privilege to respectfully refuse to provide materials it cannot provide. This department of justice making exactly the same argument they're saying they turned over almost the entire Mueller report unredacted. The attorney general William Barr, has testified before the judiciary committee. They're saying they're prevent by law from giving over this grand jury information so what's the difference here? There are categorical differences. First, the Obama administration made dozens of witnesses available to congress, provided numerous thousands of documents as you just heard to the Republicans in congress, and yes, it made specific claims of privilege, but here the trump administration has decided to say a blanket no, no to any kind of oversight whatsoever, no witnesses, no documents, no nothing, claim executive privilege over things that it knows there is no basis for. There's no executive privilege over the hundreds of thousands of documents regarding events that took place before Donald Trump was president. You can't have a privilege -- an executive privilege when you're not the executive. So they know that vast categories are inapplicable to the privilege here. So they're just stonewalling. They want to draw this out as long as possible and we're going to fight it. We are fighting it and we have to because if this president can show that congress cannot enforce its oversight responsibility, something Barack Obama never tried to do and he had respect for the separation of powers, it will mean not only that we can't conduct this investigation but that no future president can be held accountable for corruption or malfeasance. That's the big question, what can you do about it. You've talked under the congress' power for inherent contempt that you can maybe fine officials. You're not going to get a U.S. Attorney to prosecute the attorney general after you hold him or any other official in contempt so what can you do and how can you be effective? We're going to have to enforce so much of this in court and we're seeing signs already and this is positive that the courts understand the urgency here in the first case to get to the court involving the accountants, the house oversight committee. The judge has said essentially we're going to expedite the schedule. I'm going to give you a quick judgment on it. And look, we are going to have to consider other remedies like inherent contempt, where, if the courts take too long, we use our own judicial process within the congress. Look, I think if you fine someone $25,000 a day to their person until they comply, it gets their attention. If you can collect. Well, if you can collect but it affects, you know, whether they're going to be facing ultimately hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. I don't know how many are going to want to take that risk for Donald Trump but we are going to have to use that if necessary, the power of the purse if necessary. We're going to have to enforce our ability to do oversight. More and more of your colleagues are saying in the face of the president's blanket no as you put it that it's time to open up impeachment proceedings and that would strengthen your hand in the courts. You wrote an op-ed saying Democrats don't take the bait on impeachment, and that if it were seen as a political partison exercise it simply couldn't work and that Democrats shouldn't pursue it. Is it getting to the point where you're going to have to change your mind? I was arguing a year and a half ago when I wrote that op-edthat we have to wait to see what Mueller reports. Now we have the Mueller report although we haven't heard from the man himself. The first priority has to be get Mueller before the congress and the American people. Are you convinced that's going to happen? I am. The American people have every right to hear what the man who did the investigation are has to say and we now know we can't rely on the attorney general who misrepresented his conclusions. So he is going to testify, and yes, it's certainly true that these additional acts of obstruction, a person having obstructed the justice department investigation, now obstructing congress, does add weight to impeachment, but part of our reluctance is we are already a bitterly divided country and an impeachment process will divide us further. Once we get started, it's like pushing a Boulder off the side of a cliff. It gathers momentum of its own until it hits rock bottom which is the senate and we're trying to push that Boulder back up the hill. He may get us there. He certainly seems to be trying and maybe this is his perverse way of dividing us more, and as you heard in the clip earlier, he thinks that's to his political advantage but it's certainly not to the country's advantage. We saw an effort this week by Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, to get the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden for his diplomacy in the Ukraine while his son was serving on the board of the largest natural gas producer there. The president told politico on Friday it would be appropriate for him to discuss a probe of Biden with the attorney general. Is it appropriate? Of course it's not appropriate and what is so shocking to me, I served for many years on a democracy commission in the congress where we would partner with parliaments in emerging countries, emerging democracies, and we would always say when you win an election you don't seek to jail the losing side. Here the president of the united States is saying it's perfectly okay for him -- and he has said this before -- to go to the attorney general and get them to open an investigation of his rivals. Sadly, this attorney general has turned out to be so political and so partisan and so frankly without integrity, he just might do it. That does add to the sense of crisis, that these democratic norms are being broken down every day. 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 acknowledge and blessing was going to get the help of another foreign government in a presidential election, you know, it tells me that they not only think there's nothing wrong with this, if that's true, there's something wrong with them. How about the underlying issue. There's no public evidence that the former vice president took 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? I don't know the circumstances in which he took the job but I can say this vis-a-vis 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. We're providing generous support to Ukraine. We want them to be successful in its conflict with Russia. 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. So, yes, let the president go after him but don't seek the help of a foreign government in your election. If this isn't criminal and Bob Mueller said he could not prove all the elements of a crime, 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. Chairman Schiff, thank you for joining us this morning. Thanks, George.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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