Congress must also determine “whether any of the president’s team collaborated or colluded at all with Russia during the campaign,” Schiff said late Tuesday, shortly before The New York Times reported that members of Trump’s campaign had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence officials during the election.
That report raised but did not answer many of the same questions Schiff has articulated. The Times noted that intelligence agencies are still investigating “whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election,” and that “officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.”
I asked Schiff what his unanswered questions are, how he hopes to broaden congressional investigations into the Kremlin’s contacts with the Trump campaign, and why the probes are necessary in the first place. Below is an edited and condensed transcript of our conversation.
Uri Friedman: You’ve called for additional [congressional] investigations. What are the questions, at this juncture, you feel are still unanswered that we need answered?
Adam Schiff: There are two broad categories of questions. The first is: What kind of contacts did Flynn and/or other members of the Trump campaign have with the Russians during the course of Russia’s interference in our election? That’s very much within the scope of our investigation in the House Intelligence Committee. Those allegations, I think, are the most serious.
The next set of allegations concern Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador in December, where they discussed the sanctions that had just been levied by the Obama administration for the Russians’ interference on Trump’s behalf in the campaign. And there we need to know exactly what they discussed, whether there were multiple conversations, whether there were also text communications as [White House Press Secretary] Sean Spicer has said, and whether those discussions were authorized by the president or others in the White House. And [we need to know] when administration officials became witting of the lie that Mike Flynn told [about not discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador] and that the vice president then propagated to the American people.
Friedman: David Ignatius [of The Washington Post] quoted you in an article as saying that you also wanted to know whether any of these communications were encrypted. Is that still a concern of yours?
Schiff: I’d like to know any medium that General Flynn used to communicate with the Russians. We know there were voice communications. We know there were text communications. And I’d be interested to know just how those communications took place. That’s something [I am] requesting of the FBI as a member of the Gang of Eight [group of congressional leaders on intelligence matters] and I would hope that we would have the opportunity to review any transcripts of those conversations or communications.