NSA is withholding 'potentially relevant documents' to Ukraine: Rep. Schiff

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead House impeachment manager is interviewed on "This Week."
8:30 | 01/19/20

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Transcript for NSA is withholding 'potentially relevant documents' to Ukraine: Rep. Schiff
prosecution, defense, judge and jury, and we hear from Adam Schiff. Thank you for joining us this morning. Good to be with you. I want to start with the president's first official filing. The quotes, categorical denial of the litigation, calling it the fruit of a lawless process, and a dangerous attack on our elections. You have now had the chance to review it. What's your response? Well, it's surprising in that it really doesn't offer much new beyond the failed arguments we heard in the house. The facts aren't seriously contested. The president withheld hdreds of millions of dollars of military aid to an ally at war with Russia, withheld a white house meeting that the president of Ukraine desperately sought to establish with his country, and with his adversary that supported the United States in order to coerce Ukraine in helping him cheat in the next election. They really can't contest those facts and the only thing new about the president's defense is they are arguing because they can't contest the facts, is that the president cannot be impeached for abusing the power of his office. That's what I want to get to because where Alan Dershowitz is coming up and he says, quote, abuse of power even if proved is not an impeachable offense. That's an argument you have to make if the facts are so dead set against you if the president has admitted to the wrongdoing, his chief of staff has confessed to the wrongdoing. His European union ambassador has confessed to the quid pro quo. You have to argue even if he abused his office it's not impeachable. You have to go so far out of the mainstream to find someone to make that argument, you had to leave the realm of constitutional law scholars and go to criminal defense lawyers. Even professor Turley who testified on behalf of house Republicans couldn't make that argument. In fact, the house made the exact opposite argument that abuse of power is at the center of what the framers intended an impeachable offense to be. The logic of that absurdist position that's being now adopted by the president is he could give away the state of Alaska. He could withhold execution of sanctions on Russia to coerce Russia to interfere in the next one. The mere idea of this would have appalled the founders who were worried about exactly that kind of solicitation of foreign interference in an election for personal benefit. The danger it poses to national security, that goes to the very heart of what the framers intended to be impeachable. Let's talk about lev parnas. He released a great deal of information, and he's the associate of Rudy Giuliani now indicted who has testified and has given a lot of documents. He has testified in public, and couldn't testify to congress. There's only one reference to him in your brief. How much of him will you be using in your argument? Are you concerned he won't be seen as credible because he's under indictment? Well, look. It's the fact with many people surrounding the president that they end up indicted. These are the people that the president has chosen to work with, people like, you know, Michael Cohen like lev parnas, like so many others. Paul manafort, and these are people that do have information about the president's misconduct, but right now, George, we don't know what witnesses will be allowed and if we'll be allowed witnesses. We can't make a determination on which witnesses will call knowing the absence or if the senate will allow any at all. The threshold issue here, George, is will it be a fair will the senators allow the house to call witnesses to introduce documents? That is the foundational issue on which everything else rests, and one thing that the public is overwhelmingly in support of, and that is a fair trial. Imagine that you are a juror, people watching your show from around the country, imagine that you're a juror, and the judge comes into the courtroom and says, look. I have been in consultation with the defendant, and I'm working hand in hand with the defendant, and we've agreed that I'm not going to allow the prosecution to call any witnesses and I'm not going to allow the prosecution to show any documents. I will only allow the prosecution to read the transcripts from the grand jury. No juror heard anything like that from a judge because that would be absurd. It would be a mockery of a trial, not a trial, but that is what senator Mcconnell to date is proposing, but that's not what the American people want. I don't think it's true to the oath the senators have taken to be impartial administers of justice. You have to convince at least four Republicans to vote. One of those is Susan Collins and she has been critical of the house process saying you should have done more to enforce your own subpoenas. I have seen those comments and I look forward to addressing them at the trial because we did try to get these witnesses in the house. We subpoenaed many of these witnesses and because of the president's obstruction, they ignore those lawful subpoenas. If you argue that, well, the house needed to go through endless months or even years of litigation before bringing about an impeachment, you effectively nullify the impeachment clause. You allow the president of the United States by delay to defeat the power of the impeachment clause. The framers gave the house the sole power of impeachment. It didn't say that was given to judges who at their leisure may or may not decide cases and allow the house to proceed. That is not the structure that the framers intended and I'll make one other point, George, which I think is a powerful one, and that is Donald Trump's justice department is in court saying, the house cannot go to court to enforce its subpoenas. They can't have it both Veys, and neither should the senators accept it both ways. The reality is because what the president is threatening to do is cheat in the next election, you cannot wait months and years to be able to remove that threat from office. Senator Mcconnell hasn't released his resolution and rules for the timetable, but we've learned he's considering a far more compressed schedule than the Clinton impeachment. Fewer days, a compressed time line, no guarantee of new witnesses as we've discussed. What will you be fighting for on Tuesday? Well, and it's telling that none of us have seen this resolution except I suppose the white house lawyers. We'll be fighting for a fair trial. As I mentioned before, that is really the foundation on which this all rests. If the senate decides, if the senate prevails and there are no witnesses, it will be the first impeachment trial in history that goes to conclusion without witnesses. The atmosphere in the senate when I came with the other house managers and we read the articles was one befitting something that has only happened three times in the nation's history, and I intend during the trial to be respectful of the senators, to operate from the presumption that they do take their oath seriously, but also with the knowledge that Americans are watching, that they're going to demand a fair trial, and if the senators don't give the country a fair trial, one that's fair to the president, but also fair to the American people, the senators will be held accountable. So that's the approach I intend to take. Finally, senator, I mean congressman, you're also the chair of the house intelligence committee. Your committee holds meetings on global security threats, and politico is reporting that the intelligence community is resisting coming forward in your hearing because they're afraid of angering president trump. What's the latest on that? Are you going to have a public hearing? Unfortunately I think those reports are all too accurate. The intelligence community is reluctant to have an open hearing, something that we had done every year prior to the trump administration because they're worried about angering the president. Well, part of their job is to speak truth to power, and I'm worried they're succumbing to pressure of the administration, and I'll say something even more concerning to me, and that is the intelligence community is beginning to withhold documents from congress on the issue of Ukraine. They're succumbing to pressure from the administration, the NSA in particular who is withholding what are potentially relevant documents to our oversight responsibilities on Ukraine, but also withholding documents that the senators might want to see during the trial. That's deeply concerning, and there are signs the CIA may be on the same tragic course. We are counting on the intelligence community not only to speak truth to power, but to resist pressure from the administration to withhold information from congress because the administration fears it may incriminate them. Thank you for your time this

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

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