Rep. Adam B. Schiff expressed concern Monday that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III might decline to look into President Trump’s private business dealings as he investigates Russia’s interference in America’s 2016 election.
As a result, the Burbank congressman said, it could be up to Democrats who took control of the House last week to expose the full scope of alleged wrongdoing by Trump and his allies, Schiff told the Los Angeles Times editorial board.
Schiff, a Democrat who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, cited the revelation by Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer, that Trump was actively pursuing a deal to build a skyscraper in Moscow during the 2016 campaign even while denying doing business with Russia.
“Now, the Russians knew this was happening, which makes it very compromising, because the Russians could expose it,” Schiff said.
“Anyone who engaged in anything like that, anything remotely like that, would never get a security clearance, but this is the president of the United States,” he added. “If the financial entanglement goes beyond that, and includes money laundering and criminal activity that the Russians could expose at a time and place of their choosing, that’s compromising.”
Schiff said he suspects that “Mueller may not be looking at this, which concerns me, because it means that up until now no one has looked at this.”
Schiff cited a New York Times story last April that Trump was ready to fire Mueller after an erroneous report that the special counsel had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank records on his real estate business. The White House, he said, might be forcing Mueller to steer clear of his private finances.
“I don’t know whether the Justice Department is maintaining that red line that the president decided to draw,” he said. “If they are, then we’ll be the only people, the only investigation of that thus far, our committee and any other committee in Congress that looks at that issue.”
Mueller’s function is to see who broke the law and deserves to go to jail, not to tell the country what happened, Schiff said.
Schiff also signaled that if Mueller releases a report implicating Trump in criminal wrongdoing, House Democratic leaders were not inclined to impeach Trump if it appears the Republicans who control the Senate will refuse to convict him and remove him from office.
In his former job as a federal prosecutor, he said, “it was not our tradition or habit or policy to indict people that we did not believe we could prove guilty in trial and convict merely to put them through the process of a trial or to expose wrongdoing if we couldn’t persuade a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“I think the same is true in impeachment — that it’s a tremendously wrenching thing to put a country through, and it obviously has a deeply disruptive impact on the running of the government … and there are ordinary mechanisms to remove a president at the ballot box, and so to depart from that, you need a powerful reason, and I don’t think you undertake that process unless you have some expectation that it’s going to be successful.”