Rep. Adam Schiff on what the Jan. 6 committee wants to achieve before the year ends
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Congressman Adam Schiff joins us once again. He made the case against then-President Donald Trump in his first impeachment, and he is part of the January 6 committee now examining those potential criminal referrals. Congressman, welcome back.
ADAM SCHIFF: Thank you. Great to be with you.
INSKEEP: OK, we just heard about possible criminal referrals for people who refused to cooperate. So I understand that. Could you possibly also refer people for specific crimes on or about January 6?
SCHIFF: We certainly could, and this is what we're discussing as we go into the last days of our work on this important investigation. And that is, what would the impact of our referrals be if we make referrals, against whom and for what offenses? How much should we detail the evidence, knowing that the Justice Department has sources of evidence that we don't, that it was able to enforce certain subpoenas and compel testimony that we have not been able to? So in some ways, I think the information we provide will exceed that of the department. In other areas, they have more evidence than we do.
INSKEEP: Isn't this ultimately a political as well as a legal decision, by which I mean, you have to decide, not only do we think that this is a criminal act, but also does it benefit the country in some way to call for this prosecution?
SCHIFF: That's exactly right. There's no requirement that Congress need one to find evidence for criminality, make referrals, but there is a long practice of Congress doing that. Now, generally, those referrals involve crimes against the institution of the Congress, so people who are refusing to testify or people who commit perjury when they testify. But here you have the ultimate crime against Congress. And that was a violent attack on a Congress doing its work to certify a presidential election. So it's consistent with what we've done in the past if we go forward. At the same time, it's a whole new level of seriousness in terms of what we'd be referring.
INSKEEP: What is an example of something that you learned that looks like it might be a crime, that could be a subject of one of these referrals, but has not already been prosecuted by the Justice Department? What's something that's out there?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, I can't go into the particulars of what we may refer, but just looking, for example, at what Judge Carter in California had to say - he was looking at a small sample of the overall body of evidence. And he concluded in his review - and again, his review was to determine whether John Eastman, one of the lawyers working with President Trump, had to turn over material or whether it was covered by the attorney-client privilege and, in this case in particular, whether the crime-fraud exception applied - and he concluded that President Trump and others were likely engaged in a criminal conspiracy to obstruct the Congress in its work. So there you have a federal jurist who's making that determination. And obviously, those are facts that we weigh, along with a body of evidence that was not available to the judge.
INSKEEP: Granting that you haven't decided what referrals to make, granting that this is a political as well as a strictly legal decision - you have to decide what makes sense for the country - when you look at the evidence as a former prosecutor, do you believe that Donald Trump committed specific prosecutable crimes on January 6 and beforehand, a criminal conspiracy or something else?
SCHIFF: Yes, I do. And, you know, I think that illustration I gave, that example I gave is just one instance, one particular offense that I think the facts support a potential charge against the former president. And, you know, the Justice Department, in my view, needs to hold, you know, everyone equally responsible before the law, and that includes former presidents when they engage in criminality.
INSKEEP: What happens to your body of evidence when Republicans become the majority, Republicans are in control, and it seems this committee will go out of business?
SCHIFF: Well, we intend to make our evidence public and in that way make sure that is accessible to everyone, to the Justice Department, so that when the Republicans take over, they can't cherry-pick certain evidence and mislead the country with some false narrative. So we want to put the evidence out there, and that's what we intend to do.
INSKEEP: Adam Schiff of California, it's a pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much.
SCHIFF: Great to talk with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.