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Rep. Adam Schiff On The Latest In The Russia Investigation


President Trump says there's nothing to see here about a meeting between his oldest son and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Nothing happened from the meeting. Zero happened from the meeting. And honestly, I think the press...

INSKEEP: It's still a meeting of interest to investigators, including Democrat Adam Schiff of the House intelligence committee, who joins us once again. Congressman, good morning.

ADAM SCHIFF: Good morning. Good to be with you, Steve.

INSKEEP: So do you agree that nothing happened from this meeting that we've been discussing all week?

SCHIFF: Not at all. This is very significant. Here you have the Russians reaching out to the inner circle of the campaign, offering dirt on Hillary Clinton and expressing their support - government support for a U.S. presidential candidate and a campaign saying we love it. That would be great. And by the way, late summer would be the best timing for us. And of course, late summer is when the Russians started dumping the stolen emails about Hillary Clinton.

INSKEEP: You're looking there at the timeline, the timeline of events that suggests to you - what? - that there was in fact some kind of coordination or collusion going on in that meeting where it is said nothing happened?

SCHIFF: Well, it more than suggests. It, I think, quite clearly demonstrates that the campaign was interested in colluding with the Russian government, that they wanted to get dirt on the Clinton campaign or on Secretary Clinton and were willing to even say what the best timing for that would be.

They went into this meeting believing they were meeting with a Russian government lawyer who had information that the government wanted to pass on in its effort to help Donald Trump. It's hard to be more clear about the intent here. Now, whether they got something at that meeting, whether they got something at a later meeting is something we need to determine.

But the most interesting, I think, most recent development is the president is now vacillating about whether he knew about the meeting, suggesting that he was perhaps told about the meeting but believed it was about adoptions. Well, this of course was the fiction that Don Jr. initially put out before he realized The New York Times had these emails. And that, I think, is the least plausible explanation that the president was told about the meeting but told it was only about adoptions and didn't know the context in which the meeting was set up.

INSKEEP: And of course, that raises the question about whether the president himself had some direct involvement here. But you said something else, Congressman Schiff. You said you don't know if maybe there was further discussion at a later meeting. Based on the investigations in your committee or any other source of information that you have, do you have reason to believe or suspect that there are more meetings between Trump campaign officials and Russians of some sort that we don't yet know about?

SCHIFF: Well, I can't comment on what we're learning in committee. But I certainly can say - tell you this from the public record. That is, every time the Trump campaign says OK, we had this meeting but no other, there are additional meetings that become public just as this one did. And indeed, if the public reporting is accurate, Jared Kushner himself kept on essentially updating his security clearance form to reflect new meetings. This is obviously a very serious problem.

It's hard to imagine anyone forgetting a meeting that they go to with the hope and expectation that they're going to get support from the Russian government about their opponent. So it's just strange credulity that this would be somehow forgotten. It is very easy, though, to believe that the Trump campaign - that Trump's son made an effort to mislead the public about the nature of that meeting and of course only acknowledge the meeting once it became public. This is a pattern we have seen now time and time again.

INSKEEP: Congressman, McClatchy is reporting that there is a big question for your committee and the Senate intelligence committee as well, whether the Trump campaign digital operation helped to guide Russian fake news propagandists to the proper voters. What evidence, if any, suggests that that happened?

SCHIFF: We are looking at this issue, and I don't want to represent anything about the evidence. But we're looking at the issue of whether there was any coordination in the social media campaign, that is, the data - analytical operation of the Trump campaign. Did they have any help? We know the Russian paid social media trolls who were pushing out negative stories about Hillary Clinton, pushing out false stories into the tops of people's social media feeds. And we need to find out, was that an area of coordination?

INSKEEP: Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks very much. Always a pleasure.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

INSKEEP: He joined us by way of Skype. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.