Trump 'believes he is above the law and accountable to no one': Rep. Adam Schiff

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff sit down with George Stephanopoulos on "This Week."
13:07 | 12/15/19

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Transcript for Trump 'believes he is above the law and accountable to no one': Rep. Adam Schiff
And this morning, we begin with the two Democrats leading impeachment in the house, intelligence chair Adam Schiff and the chair of the judiciary committee, Jerry Nadler. Gentlemen, welcome, and chairman Nadler, let me begin with you this morning. When you first became chair of the judiciary committee, you set a pretty high bar for impeachment. Here's what you told me back in March. Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen. You have to persuade enough of the opposition party voters, or the trump voters that you are not just trying to -- That's a very high bar. Yeah, it is a very high bar. You're not just trying to reverse the results of the last election. Republican voters overwhelmingly oppose impeachment right now. Haven't you failed your own I don't think so. The polling shows that about 70% of the American people approve of this, but more importantly -- They approve that something is wrong, but not impeachment though. But more importantly, this is a continuing threat to the integrity of our elections now. This is not a one off. Impeachment is not a punishment for past behavior. This president conspired -- sought foreign interference in the 2016 election. He is openly seeking foreign interference in the 2020 election, and he poses a continuing threat to our national security and to the integrity of our elections, to the democratic system itself. We cannot permit that to continue. That's chairman Nadler's position, chairman Schiff, but apparently right now you haven't persuaded a majority of Republicans that it's worthy of impeachment, and back in March, you also warned against that. You said, the only thing worse putting the country through the trauma of impeachment is putting the country through the trauma of a failed impeachment. If president trump is overwhelmingly acquitted in the senate, is that a failure? No, it isn't a failure. At least it's not a failure in the sense of our constitutional duty in the house, and I'll tell you what changed my mind, George. I resisted this, but it was two things. It was the discovery of the most egregious conduct to date that was one thing with the president inviting foreign interference as a candidate when he couldn't use the power of his office to make it was another when as president of the United States he withheld hundreds of millions of dollars to coerce an ally, betray our national security and try to cheat in the next election. That was not something we could turn away from, but it was one more fact, George, that I think made it inexorable, and that is the fact that it was the day after Bob Mueller testified, the day after Donald Trump felt that he was beyond accountability for his first misconduct that he was back on the phone this time with president zelensky trying to get that country to help him cheat in the next election. That told me this president believes he is above the law and accountable to no one, and this road was necessary, and I think it very much is. And let me build on that point right there because I wanted to get your reaction to the fact that there are reports that Rudy Giuliani was actually at the white house reporting back to the president on his trip to Ukraine saying he was acting as the president's lawyer collecting more information on the Bidens and burisma, and he visited with the president the day after the house vote on impeachment. Well, this is exactly the problem, and that is that the misconduct hasn't stopped, that the president is out there on the white house lawn just a month or two ago saying that he still wants Ukraine to do this investigation, that he would like China to investigate the Bidens. The president's emissary was in Ukraine just this past week once again trying to conduct the same sham investigation, trying to get Ukrainian help to cheat in the next election. So this misconduct goes on, the threat to our election, integrity coming up goes on. It's a clear and present danger I think to our democracy, and not something that we can turn away from simply because the Republicans in the house refuse to do their duty, and continuing to put the person of the president above their personal obligation. This is a crime in progress against the constitution and against the American democracy. We cannot take the risk that the next election will be corrupted through foreign interference solicited by the president, which he is clearly trying to do. It goes to the heart of our democracy. It was the heart of what the constitution meant by high crimes and misdemeanors for the president to engage in self-dealing for his own benefit to put himself above the country and to threaten the integrity of our elections, which upon everything else depends. It is a total threat and we must meet that threat. We are seeing the first signs of a political backlash. Your colleague, democratic colleague Jeff van drew of new Jersey is now suggesting he's going to switch parties likely to announce that before the vote in the house this week of course. He opposed impeachment, the only one who has publicly opposed it. Your rooex -- reaction? What he's reacting to is public polling that shows he can't get renominated as an electorate in his district. 24% to renominate him, and 60% to nominate somebody else. To that point, this is not we should not be looking at those things. This is the defense of our democracy. Do we stay a democratic republic or do we turn into a tyranny? There are two questions that are implicated in all this. One, is it okay to solicit foreign interference for your election campaign? Is it okay to use the power of the presidency to coerce a foreign government into helping you in the election, and to subvert the honesty of the election? And secondly, is it okay to order everyone not to testify in order to cover it up? Those are the two articles of impeachment. If the answer to either of those questions is it's okay, we will not have a democracy anymore. Chairman Schiff, I know that speaker Pelosi says she's not whipping this vote. Members are free to vote their conscience. We know the Republicans are targeting 31 Democrats from trump districts. Are you confident you have the majority to impeach the president? I am confident. I'm not whipping this either. I don't think anyone is. This is a real vote of conscience. The real question is, why won't Republicans do their constitutional duty? What has really changed between now and watergate isn't the nature of the president's conduct. If anything, this president's conduct is far worse than anything Nixon did, far more sweeping in its obstruction of accountability, far more damaging to our national security than the coverup that was watergate. The question is, why are Republicans placing this president above their oath of office? I don't think any of us have any question that had Barack Obama engaged in the activity, the conduct which is the subject these articles of impeachment, every one of these Republicans would be voting to impeach him, but you know something? I have to hope to hell, George, if this were Barack Obama, I would vote to impeach him. This is the crux of the matter, which is something the framers were also deeply concerned about, and that is an excess of what they would call factionalism, but we would call extreme partisanship. It's more important that the president of their party remain in office than what he does to the country, and that I think puts us deeply at risk. Let's look ahead to the senate trial. Senator Mcconnell, the Republican leader was out speaking about how he's going to handle the trial this week on fox. Everything I do during this, I'm coordinating with white house counsel. There will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can. This is what I see coming, happening today is just a partisan nonsense. It's pretty clear, chairman Nadler, that Republicans in the senate, at least the leadership will be in lockstep with the president. Is there anything you can do about that? Well, the senators -- the constitution prescribes a special oath for the senators when they sit in trial and impeachment. They have to pledge to do impartial justice, and here you have the majority of the senate and in effect, the jury, saying they're going to work hand in glove with the defense attorney. That's in violation of the oath they're about to take, and a complete subversion of the constitutional scheme. We will have done our duty in the house to protecthe national security and the -- of our country and the integrity of our democratic process which is what is really at stake here. I hope that despite what you just heard, that they will do their duty and will look into this, and will see the uncontroverted facts. These are basically uncontroverted. The president solicited -- he blackmailed a foreign government into giving aid to his election using funds that were appropriated for military aid to a country under invasion by Russia, and there's virtually no controversy about that, and then he ordered everyone not to testify in order to cover it up. This is a subversion of the constitutional order, a subversion of our democracy, and if he gets away with it, future presidents of either party will be able to really change the nature of our government. This changes the nature of our government. Do we have a constitutional democracy, or do we have a monarchy where the president is unaccountable? That's what's at stake here. Chairman Schiff, the president has had different views on what he wants and he expects in the trial. He's talking about having a long trial and calling witnesses and calling perhaps you, and you no -- now the Republicans are coalescing for a short trial with no witnesses. Do you as a potential house impeachment manager feel the need to call witnesses in this trial? There are any number of witnesses that should be called in a senate trial, and many witnesses the American people would like to hear from that the administration has refused to make available, and perhaps of equal if not greater importance are the thousands and thousands of documents that the administration refuses to turn over. I would hope that every senator of both parties would like to see the documentary evidence. They would like to hear from these witnesses that haven't testified, and I would urge Mitch Mcconnell to start negotiating with chuck Schumer to make sure that those senators have a full record, but I think we see clearly what's going on hereith the comments of Lindsey graham and others, and that is they don't want the American people to see the facts. They realize what's been presented and the house is already overwhelming, but there's more damni evidence to be had, and they don't want the American people to see that, and I, you know, think that's disgraceful, but I hope that the senators will insist on getting the documents, on hearing from the witnesses, on making up their own mind even if there are some senators who have decided out of their blind allegiance to this president that he can do nothing wrong, that he can shoot somebody in the middle of the street, and they would still support him. That there, these other senators, I hope they fulfill their constitutional obligation. Do you think any Republicans are prepared to break ranks? I don't know. I'm not canvassing Republican senators, but I would agree withhairman Schiff. It's their duty to look through the evidence and reach a conclusion, in order to vindicate and to safeguard American democracy. It is disgraceful that the president refused to let people testify, refused to hand over any documents, and the senate should certainly demand to see the documents that have been withheld, get the witnesses. If they don't think that there is sufficient evidence on the record, and I think the record is overwhelming, but if they don't think there is sufficient evidence on the record, they should demand the testimony of people like secretary of state Pompeo and Mulvaney and others, John Bolton, who have under the president's instructions are refused to testify. Finally chairman Schiff, I want to ask you about the inspector general's report on the investigation into the Russia investigation. As you know, it found there were significant errors, 17 significant errors and omission in that FISA surveillance application for Carter page, and you have received some criticism because of your past claims that there were not any omissions. "The Wall Street journal" editorial page, I want to show it right now. Mr. Schiff claimed doj met the rigor, transparency and evidentiary basis needed to need FISA standards, but Mr. Horowitz makes clear that FBI officials didn't tell senior officials about the concerns. If the court had granted the warrants, we don't know. Do you accept your original judgments were wrong, and what do you do about it? I accept 170 interviews later, the inspector general found things we didn't know two things ago. I certainly concur with the inspector general's conclusion that there need to be significant changes to the FISA process. We just didn't have that evidence available two years ago. Equally important to those that have made the argument, including many that are fond of "The Wall Street journal" editorial page, that somehow this investigation was tainted from the start and properly begun, driven by political bias, that it was all essentially a deep state conspiracy, there was spying on the trump campaign. All of that was debunked by the inspector general. "The Wall Street journal" should spend more time talking about that in its editorial. Chairman Schiff and Nadler, thank you for your time.

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

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