House Ethics Leader Pushes For Examination Of Trump's Alleged Russia Ties
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
For weeks there have been calls for an independent investigation into Russia's alleged ties to the Trump campaign. Now that chorus of voices is getting louder. The House Intelligence Committee had planned on holding an open hearing on the topic tomorrow. Now they're not. Republicans say it was postponed. Democrats say it was canceled. Here's the top Democrat on the committee, Representative Adam Schiff, speaking yesterday on CBS's "Face The Nation."
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FACE THE NATION")
ADAM SCHIFF: I do think the events of this week call out the need for an independent commission quite separate and apart from what we do in Congress.
MARTIN: Committee Chair Devin Nunes last week broke protocol by telling President Trump about intelligence reports that involve some of Trump's associates rather than telling committee members first. Congressman Ted Deutch is the top Democrat on the House Ethics Committee. He joins us in our studios this morning. Thanks so much for coming in.
TED DEUTCH: Great to be with you. Thank you.
MARTIN: Can the House Intelligence Committee still conduct this investigation, in your opinion?
DEUTCH: Well, it's hard to see how the Intelligence Committee can move forward and do the job that it needs to do on behalf of the American people when the chairman behaves in a way that seems to put partisanship above getting all of the facts here. When the chairman of the committee decided to share some information, first with the speaker, then rushing to the White House to share it with the president - information that appears to be classified information - it makes it hard for people to have confidence in his ability to move forward. That's why there needs to be an independent investigation.
MARTIN: And we should just clarify for the audience - this is breaking protocol. Ordinarily, the chairman would've, at the very least, informed his ranking member and other members on the committee before going straight to the White House to brief him about this.
DEUTCH: He would've shared the information with - right - with his fellow members. And when you think about this issue in light of everything that's going on in the world, this isn't just a matter for Capitol Hill. This issue about Russia as the information comes out, obviously, we know about General Flynn, the information about Paul Manafort, the news that came out that suggests that he was paid millions of dollars to advocate for Putin's policies...
MARTIN: This is the former campaign manager for President Trump, yeah...
DEUTCH: ...When you look at all of that and then recognize that there are very serious foreign policy implications to the decisions that are made, we have the right to understand what happened before the election, whether there was collusion, and what the current state of affairs is between this administration and Russia.
MARTIN: Well, let me ask you, you mentioned Paul Manafort. He, along with Carter Page and Roger Stone, other Trump advisers, have all volunteered to come speak to the House Intelligence Committee. These are people who are central to these allegations, so isn't this a good step towards transparency?
DEUTCH: I think that they should have an opportunity to come speak, and the committee should probe it. The reason that I think it's so important to have an independent investigation and a - we talk about a commission. And I think a commission is a great approach, but I also don't want to spend days and weeks debating the form of the independent commission.
We should have an independent commission. We should also have a discussion about whether a select committee that would give Democrats and Republicans both the opportunity to issue subpoenas and to work in a more dedicated fashion on this issue alone, whether that's something we should do. But independence is what's necessary, and it's necessary right now.
MARTIN: So you're mentioning two different options...
MARTIN: ...You're talking about a select committee that would still exist within the confines of the auspices of Congress or a special commission that would be led by a special prosecutor.
DEUTCH: Well, an independent commission that - along the lines of a 9/11 commission - that would come out, that would be comprised of members appointed by House leadership and the president would take a long time to pull together. They would be given some period of time to complete their work. There would be a report at the end that would guide us going forward. And I think that's important, and we should do that.
But the speaker could move forward tomorrow with a select committee that's focused solely on this issues (ph) with Democrats and Republicans operating on behalf of the American people. And that's something that he hasn't hesitated doing in the past. He put a select committee together to go after, to attack Planned Parenthood. Certainly, it would make sense for him to show some leadership and allow us to move forward with an independent investigation into the Trump campaign and White House's ties to Russia.
MARTIN: Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida's 22nd District. Thanks so much for coming in this morning.
DEUTCH: My pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.