Ranking House Intelligence Democrat Adam Schiff said Wednesday that former FBI Director James Comey’s written statement on the Russia probe was “certainly evidence" of obstruction of justice on the part of President Donald Trump.
“It is certainly evidence of interference or obstruction,” Schiff said during an interview with the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, adding, “The question I think is where does this action fit in with other actions of the president.”
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In a written statement submitted a day prior to his Thursday testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, Comey said that the president had described the Russia investigation to him during an oval office meeting as a “’a cloud’ that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country.” Comey said Trump then asked what the FBI “could do to ‘lift the cloud.’"
The California Representative said Wednesday that he interpreted Trump’s comments as an attempt to make the Russia probe disappear.
“I think that was the president’s way of saying, ‘we need this to go away,” he said, adding that Comey’s statement “paints a very alarming picture of the conduct of the president of the United States.”
Though much of Comey’s statement didn’t introduce new information to their probe, Schiff said, it corroborated their pre-existing concerns.
“We knew a lot of this already,” Schiff said. “So in that sense it confirmed some of our worst fears.”
Schiff also addressed the possibility of the Trump White House invoking executive privilege to attempt to block Comey’s testimony — a path the administration has publicly stated they will not pursue.
“I think they would have a very weak claim of privilege,” he told Ignatius.
Schiff also vowed to oppose the White House if they reversed course and opted to pursue executive privilege.
"We’re going to have to fight that," he said.
Schiff also cautioned against complacency in the face of the mounting scandals facing the Trump administration.
“My first reaction was we can’t lose our capacity to be shocked by this,” Schiff said. “It’s a real risk that the president has so changed what we expected of a president of the United States that even when we view contact that seems to be such an anathema [to our values] we fail to be surprised”