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Rep. Adam Schiff Weighs In On Fusion GPS 'New York Times' Op-Ed


The co-founders of the firm that commissioned the so-called Steele dossier are speaking out. That was the report by a former British spy named Christopher Steele that purported to detail Donald Trump's ties to Russia. In a New York Times op-ed, Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch of Fusion GPS write that after being attacked by President Trump and having his allies in Congress dig through their bank records, seeking to tarnish their company, they say, they wanted to set the record straight. The men wrote that Fusion GPS has given more than 21 hours of testimony to Congress and that Republicans have been sitting on that testimony, selectively leaking details to conservative media to paint them in an unfavorable light.

NPR has invited Republicans who've heard that testimony and hope to hear from one of them. But right now, we're going to hear from Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California who is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee and who joins us via Skype. Welcome to the program once again.

ADAM SCHIFF: Thank you. It's good to be with you.

SIEGEL: The Fusion GPS guys say they don't believe that the Steele dossier was the trigger for the FBI investigation into Russian meddling, that actually the FBI already was interested in this before they learned of the dossier. Does that square with what you understand to be the timeline and what you've heard in testimony?

SCHIFF: I can't go into the genesis of the investigation. I can say that regardless of Fusion GPS, the FBI and the Department of Justice would be investigating links between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

SIEGEL: Here's something that the two co-founders of Fusion GPS write in The Times. They write (reading) we suggested investigators look into the bank records of Deutsche Bank and others that were funding Mr. Trump's businesses. Congress appears uninterested in that tip. Reportedly, ours - meaning those individuals in Fusion GPS - our bank records are the only records the House Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed.

Is that a true statement?

SCHIFF: It is all too true. And we have urged the committee to request and subpoena if necessary - as I think it would be - records from Deutsche Bank. They've refused to do so. There are credible allegations that the Russians may have laundered money through the Trump organizations or Trump properties, and that might be leverage that could be used over the president of the United States. I think it would be negligent for us not to either show that that's true or not true.

SIEGEL: But when you say that it would be justified to subpoena, say, records from Deutsche Bank, would that be a fishing expedition or is there enough there to say, we want to look specifically at that enterprise and its records because we have reason to believe that there might have been money laundering there?

SCHIFF: I think the allegations are credible enough. And in fact, we know that there was a criminal ring operating out of Trump Tower. That was the subject of an indictment that involved money laundering. I hope because the majority in our committee has been resistant to doing that that Bob Mueller will.

SIEGEL: Well, if the sense of The New York Times op-ed by the founders of Fusion GPS is generally accurate, and if you're - as the ranking Democrat, if you're frustrated by the Republican majority's lack of action on these scores, what's the point of continuing the House Intelligence Committee's investigation? Why - what do we stand to gain from it if, the way you would tell it, the investigation is blinkered and not interested in pursuing the many serious allegations?

SCHIFF: Well, notwithstanding the limitations we've faced - and they have been significant - we have uncovered a great deal of connections between the Trump campaign and the Russians and a great deal of information about how the Russians influenced our presidential election. What I anticipate we'll do at the end of the investigation is report to the public what we were able to find but also report to the public what the majority was unwilling to investigate, unwilling to pursue.

SIEGEL: I'm just curious since you do speak of when this investigation ends, when do you think the House Intelligence Committee will wrap up its investigation of Russian meddling into the election of 2016?

SCHIFF: You know, I can't say specifically. You know, part of the challenge is when you bring witnesses in, they lead you to other witnesses and other documents. But thus far, I have deep concerns about whether a great many directly pertinent witnesses will be left uninterviewed (ph).

SIEGEL: California Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, thanks for talking with us.

SCHIFF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.