'This Week' Transcript 6-18-17: Newt Gingrich, Rep. Adam Schiff, and Douglas Lute
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT FOR 'THIS WEEK' on June 18, 2017 and it will be updated.
RADDATZ: And I'm joined now by Trump ally and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, author of Understanding Trump. Good morning, Mr. Speaker.
GINGRICH: Good morning.
RADDATZ: I want to start with the Russia investigation. Of course, we saw "The Washington Post" headline and attorney general Rod Rosenstein's cautioning people on reports from anonymous officials. But then, as the president tweeted, "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch hunt." We know people close to the president's legal team say he wasn't confirming any sort of investigation. And you just heard what Pierre said that President Trump was just commenting on The Washington Post headlines.
You're the man who wrote "Understanding Trump." How do you understand that tweet?
GINGRICH: Trump has a compulsion to counterattack. And is very pugnacious. I don't think it serves him well. I don't think that tweet helped him. But it's almost like it's who he has been his whole life. I mean, he's been a fighter his whole life. He is infuriated, and legitimately, in my judgment, by this whole Russian baloney. And notice how it's evolving.
I mean, you started over here with Russia. Well, they don't have anything on Russia, but maybe, maybe there was obstruction. We may not get anything on obstruction, but maybe there is going to be perjury. And maybe there will be -- I mean, you go down the list, and we have been here before. We watched Comey appoint Patrick Fitzgerald, who was the godfather to Comey's children, and Fitzgerald knew there was no crime.
RADDATZ: But let's go back to what you just said, this Russian baloney. If people are involved in collusion with Russia, don't you want to know about that?
GINGRICH: There's no evidence. I mean, first of all, if you want to investigate Russia, fine. How about Bill Clinton's $500,000 speech. How about Podesta's brother who is a registered agent for a Russia bank. How about the Iranian deal.
RADDATZ: Let's stick with this for now.
GINGRICH: No, no. I'm just saying. I'm happy to look at Russia's relationship. I actually think it would be healthy to have congressional hearings on foreign influence peddling in the U.S. way beyond the Russians. I think that's important for the future of our democracy.
No one, and Comey himself said this in his last testimony, no one has suggested that Donald Trump had anything to do with colluding with the Russians. There's not a bit of evidence he did.
RADDATZ: Well, certainly we don't know what any evidence is so far. We don't know what's going on...
GINGRICH: Feingeint -- Senator Feinstein, the Democrat ranking member on intelligence said there is no evidence of collusion.
RADDATZ: I want to go back to the tweet for a second. Do you think he was confirming an investigation?
GINGRICH: I have no idea what he thought he was doing.
You said this week that the president cannot obstruct justice, but you led the charge to impeachBill Clinton. You voted for article 3 of the House Impeachment of Bill Clinton for obstruction of justice. What is the difference here?
GINGRICH: Clinton had committed perjury. He ultimately lost his license to practice law. Perjury is a felony. It's the same thing with Nixon, and the Nixon people were involved in a crime.
Andy McCarthy, who is a former federal prosecutor who actually prosecuted the World Trade Center bombing in '93, McCarthy has made the point over and over again, if you don't have a crime, what is it you're investigating? We don't have any evidence that Donald Trump...
RADDATZ: But the president said that he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation. If the special counsel finds he impeded that investigation by firing Comey, how is that not obstruction?
GINGRICH: He didn't impede the investigation. There's no evidence. First of all, the FBI itself has said, they have all the money they have asked for. They have had no problems getting resources. I think he fired Comey because Comey's public behavior was so destructive.
RADDATZ: He said he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation.
GINGRICH: Right, because Comey would not say in public what he was saying to Trump in private, which is you're not being investigated.
Trump just wanted people to understand, fine, there's a Russian investigation. It doesn't involve the president of the United States. And Comey apparently said that to him on three occasions.
RADDATZ: Let's talk about Bob Mueller. You have done a complete 180 on Bob Mueller. You heard what Pierre just said about Bob Mueller, highly respected man. In May you said he was a superb choice for special counsel with an impeccable reputation for honesty. Less than a month later, you say he won't be fair.
GINGRICH: Well, because, frankly, I switch, and I have no problem with Bob Mueller as a person. But I every problem with how he's -- what he's doing. I, frankly, began to switch the minute Comey, in his remarkable public statement, says, I deliberately leaked to a college professor to leak to The New York Times for the purpose of getting a special counsel.
OK, now the special counsel happens to be a close friend of Comey, which is weird, because under Justice Department rules, Mueller can't investigate Comey.
RADDATZ: But Mueller was appointed by Rosenstein.
GINGRICH: I know.
RADDATZ: Comey isn't under investigation.
GINGRICH: Comey may be under investigation. If you have an obstruction case, Comey has got to be one of the major witnesses. So then I look at who Mueller -- so I'm now curious. So I then look at who Mueller has hired. One of the lawyers he brought in has such a record of hiding evidence from the defense, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that when that lawyer participated in destroying Arthur Andersen, 85,000 jobs, that it wasn't a crime.
But he hid the evidence. He hid the evidence in Enron and four people who were innocent spent a year in jail.
Now you bring in head-hunters like that, the first four people he brought in, one was a person who had defended the Clinton Foundation against Freedom of Information Act.
RADDATZ: You heard what Pierre said. You now have 13 in there. And federal law and department policy prohibit the use of political -- ideological affiliations to assess applicants. This is effectively the way they choose...
GINGRICH: … these are people he's recruiting.
RADDATZ: And so you think Bob Mueller is politicizing this investigation, and that's why you don't trust him.
GINGRICH: You tell me why the first four names that came up, I don't know about the next nine, the first four names are all people who gave to Democrats. Two of them are people with a record of hiding evidence from the defense. And one of them is a person who defended the Clinton Foundation.
Now in this environment with a Justice Department where 97 percent of the donations last year went to Hillary, 97 percent, explain to me why I should relax as a Republican.
RADDATZ: OK. Former Republican Congressman Bob English, who helped draft President Clinton's impeachment articles says the charges against Trump are more serious than lying under oath. He writes that former President Clinton was impeached for charges less serious than the ones before us now. In the current case...
GINGRICH: Well, what are the charges?
RADDATZ: … Comey was exploring the possibility of American involvement in the Russian plot, a treasonous offense.
GINGRICH: What are the charges against Trump?
RADDATZ: There are no charges against Trump yet...
GINGRICH: Comey has -- Comey said three times...
RADDATZ: … but there is certainly talk about what they could investigate.
GINGRICH: Well, there's talk about what they could. But notice how the whole system, including you, moves the game. OK, there are no charges against Trump. Comey has said three times, there is no evidence of collusion with Trump.
Senator Feinstein, the ranking Democrat in the...
RADDATZ: Comey is no longer there. We know that.
GINGRICH: No. But he has said, after six months of looking, there is no evidence that Trump's involved. Senator Feinstein just said they have not found any evidence that Trump is involved. So what are the charges against Trump?
RADDATZ: Let's talk about Rosenstein. You talked to the president. Why is he or was he, in that tweet, publicly calling out his deputy attorney general? Has he lost confidence in him?
GINGRICH: I think he's furious. I think Trump sits there and says, let me get this straight, I know I didn't do anything with the Russians. Comey has said three times I didn't do anything with the Russians. Nobody on Capitol Hill has any proof I did anything with the Russians. And now I get an independent counsel who is going to mess up at least the next year, at a minimum, and who, by the way, you'll notice is expanding his charge.
I mean, now they're talking about not the Russians, they're talking about obstruction. Now they're talking about going and looking at financial files, if you believe the leak. And I said yesterday, you get two more leaks like this, Rosenstein is going to have to appoint a special counsel to investigate the special counsel.
RADDATZ: Do you think Rosenstein should recuse himself?
GINGRICH: No. I mean, I think this whole game of recusal now is -- this is a nightmare. And I don't think people realize this. You have this legalistic nightmare trying to block the Trump presidency on behalf of a department in which 97 percent of the money was given to Hillary.
And you want me to believe this is all just random behavior. As a historian, I don't believe it.
RADDATZ: And so what do you think should happen here? If you have allegations, if you've got people saying...
GINGRICH: What allegations?
RADDATZ: If you've got allegations of collusion, you say there is no evidence, but we don't know that.
GINGRICH: Show the evidence.
RADDATZ: So should they stop it down?
GINGRICH: No, show the evidence. If they have any evidence that Donald Trump personally is involved, show it. The country deserves...
RADDATZ: But we're not talking just about...
GINGRICH: … not to have a president...
RADDATZ: … Donald Trump.
RADDATZ: We're not just talking about Donald Trump.
GINGRICH: But Trump did nothing to slow down the investigation below Comey. No one has suggested he did anything to -- the regular FBI could go investigate to their heart's content, Trump said he wanted it done. He was angry at Comey. He wasn't angry at the investigation.
RADDATZ: We'll see how this all turns out.
GINGRICH: All right.
RADDATZ: I'm sure it will be many months of going back and forth. Thanks very much for joining us this morning.
GINGRICH: Good to be with you.
RADDATZ: Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, joins me now. Good morning, Congressman schiff.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Good morning.
RADDATZ: You heard Speaker Gingrich just say he doesn't trust Bob Mueller. But Bob Mueller is close to Comey. Does he have a point?
SCHIFF: No, he doesn't, and I found it very hard, actually, just to follow his argument, frankly. This is someone, as you pointed out, Newt Gingrich was extolling just a few weeks ago. Nothing has changed. Bob Mueller's investigation is only getting started. The only thing that really has changed is the president is attacking Bob Mueller and therefore Newt Gingrich is attacking Bob Mueller.
But the reality is that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle find Mr. Mueller to be a man of incredible integrity and courage who served his country with bravery in Vietnam, who served presidents of both parties, and it's going to take a lot more than a few presidential tweets, or Newt Gingrich, to try to besmear this very good man. So I -- I think he's --
RADDATZ: But let's talk about the Democrats he was talking about.
SCHIFF: -- the right man for the job. Yes.
RADDATZ: Congressman Schiff. Is that a point? If he's got Democrats in there, if he's got people who've given to Clinton and other Democrats?
SCHIFF: No, I think that anyone who knows Bob Mueller knows he is choosing the best people to serve on this investigative team, people that have experience in the issues that he wants to investigate and believes need to be investigated. As you and Pierre pointed out, he can't go through FEC filings to figure out should I hire this person, should I not hire them? So he's picking the best people. I think members of Congress have confidence in that.
But what's happening here is the president wants to take down Bob Mueller. His lawyer wants to take down Bob Mueller. And the question is why? And I think the answer is they want to lay the foundation to discredit whatever Bob Mueller comes up with. They're essentially engaging in a scorched earth litigation strategy that is beginning with trying to discredit the prosecutor. And that's all that's happening here. I don't think we should acquiesce in the besmirchment of this good man. And we ought to let him do his job. He is just getting started.
RADDATZ: Well, you said recently you thought there was evidence of collusion. What kind of evidence have you seen? What can you tell us?
SCHIFF: Well, I think there is evidence. I can't go into the particulars of our closed investigation. But I also think there is also evidence of obstruction. But in both cases, I would say, whether there is some evidence doesn't mean there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
The same people that say that there's no evidence of collusion say there's no evidence of obstruction. And that the president, indeed, cannot commit obstruction. I don't buy that. If you look at James Comey's testimony and we were trying this in a court of law, no judge would exclude that. That would all be relevant evidence as to potential obstruction.
And the fact that the president can fire someone for good cause, or can fire someone with no cause, doesn't mean that he can fire someone for malicious cause. The fact that an employer can terminate an employee at will doesn't mean that he can fire an employee because the employee rejected his sexual advances. So I --
RADDATZ: Congressman, I want to go back to the collusion and the evidence. I know you can't talk about specific evidence, but he says -- Dianne Feinstein had said there's no evidence of collusion. So collusion between whom? Can you tell us that?
SCHIFF: Well, the allegation of course is that the Russians and the hacking and dumping of documents in the election had essentially relationships with Trump campaign people and coordinated those efforts. Now the FBI opened an investigation into that issue in July, well before Congress did. I think they did that for good reason in July. I think they maintain that investigation. It's ongoing for good reason as well.
But I'm not prepared to say that there's proof you could take to a jury. But I can say that there is enough that we ought to be investigating. Indeed, it would be negligent for us not to investigate. And the principle reason is, Martha, that if a foreign government -- in this case Russia -- has something that they can hang over the head of our president or our administration that can influence U.S. policy, it is very much in our national security interest to know it. And we need to conduct this investigation.
Now, Newt Gingrich and the president would like us to shut it down before it really is under way. And we are far closer to beginning of the investigation than we are to the end. But it would be the worst form of negligence to our republic for us to say we're going to close the investigation before we can determine whether there is merit to these allegations.
RADDATZ: ABC News has reported that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein has started discussing whether to recuse himself. Do you think he should recuse himself given his role in justifying James Comey's firing?
SCHIFF: I think we ought to let Bob Mueller develop some of the evidence and determine what he needs to investigate. If Bob Mueller concludes that he needs to look into the circumstances, for example, in which Rod Rosenstein wrote that memo, if for example Bob Mueller were to conclude that there is evidence that Rod Rosenstein knew that the memo he was producing was going to be used as a pretext for the president to fire Comey for completely different reasons that the president was going to fire Comey to inhibit or obstruct the Russia investigation -- I'm not saying that this is the case. I can't say what Mueller may or may not be investigating. But if he should conclude that Rod Rosenstein's conduct may be culpable in some way, then I think he can't report to Rod Rosenstein. And, yes, Rosenstein would need to recuse himself. But there's no way for us to know that at this point.
RADDATZ: And you have asked for tapes, if tapes exist from the White House. We should know soon, at least President Trump said we'll know soon whether taps exist. Do you think they'll turn anything over? And if not, what happens?
SCHIFF: I don't know. I would certainly hope by the date that we set in our bipartisan letter the White House will respond that yes they have tapes, yes, they will preserve them as we have urged and required, and yes, they'll turn them over or that no, in fact, there are no tapes. It was an idle threat.
But one way or the other, we need an answer. And if we can't get an answer, then I think we need to -- we'll ultimately need to subpoena those potential documents to make sure that we have them.
RADDATZ: And you have said you believe James Comey's testimony, if accurate, was potential evidence of the president's obstruction of the investigation.
But absent those tapes, how is that verified?
SCHIEFF: There are a number of ways to verify it. And of course I think one of the most compelling pieces of evidence thus far is the fact that the president urged everybody else to leave the room. You don't do that unless you have a consciousness of the guilt of your actions, but we can talk to the people around James Comey, those that were in the FBI supervisory team, some of whom were in the room while James Comey was on the phone with the president and heard one end of the conversation.
We can also obviously look at those memoranda, which we are seeking the contemporaneous recollections of James Comey at the time of those meetings. We can also talk to the heads of the intelligence agencies and find out, did the president, or the White House intervene and ask them similarly to drop the Flynn case, or to weigh in with Comey to drop the Flynn case, or to help lift the cloud or to make public statements, anything that would corroborate James Comey. And, indeed, we have already had some corroboration in the testimony of Jeff Sessions who also said that...
RADDATZ: Very quickly, if I could, congressman, Paul Ryan says president Trump is new to this and just doesn't understand the protocol. Is that an explanation?
SCHIFF: No, it isn't at all. And we don't have one ethical standard for this president and a different ethical standard for other presidents. What's more, you know, again getting back to the fact that as Jeff Sessions corroborated, the president cleared the room of everyone except himself and James Comey. That signifies, I think, that this president knows all too well that it was inappropriate for him to asking the attorney general essentially to drop a criminal case against his most high profile surrogate, Michael Flynn, his national security adviser. So, I think there is ample indication the president knew exactly what he was doing.
But more than that, I think it is a dodge unfortunately, by our speaker to suggest that we hold this president, or any president, to a lesser ethical standard. There is only one standard for a president of the United States.
RADDATZ: OK, thanks very much for joining us this morning, Congressman Schiff.
SCHIFF: Thank you.Read more at abcnews.com