John Sepulvado: The last time we spoke to you the Democrats were in the minority. You now have the reins of the House Intelligence Committee, and I saw that you are looking to perhaps beef up staffing so that you could have more of an investigative hand into Russia. Why is that important?
Adam Schiff: Well, people need to recognize that our committee's bread and butter is oversight of the intelligence agencies, and that alone is a mammoth responsibility. The agencies are very large. They're in the business of keeping secrets, and we need to make sure that they're getting the information to policymakers to keep the country safe, that they're operating within the Constitution and the law, they're protecting our privacy. And our staff is built around that mission.
When we took on the additional obligation of investigating the Trump campaign's contact with the Russians — the Russian effort to interfere in our elections — that was an added responsibility that we weren't really staffed up to meet. Now there's some of us on the committee, like myself, that have prior investigative experience. I was a prosecutor for many years in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles. But we really do need to bring on additional staff that are also expert in conducting investigations, and so we have been looking to fill those investigative needs.
Sepulvado: Does it include forensic financial investigators?
Schiff: We certainly want people with experience in following the money. That is a staple of many investigations. And one of our paramount concerns here has been whether the Russians possess some form of compromise over the president of the United States that might explain this bewildering affinity for [Russian President] Putin — the comments apparently the president has been making about leaving NATO, the disparagement of our allies, the praising of fellow autocrats. So, if there is a reason why this is happening apart from terrible judgment or lack of experience — if there's something that the president fears the Russians could expose — we need to know about it. And if that's financial, we need to know about that. And we saw in the disclosures already from [former personal attorney] Michael Cohen is that the president was pursuing business in Russia seeking the help with the Kremlin during the presidential campaign and then misleading the country about it. If it goes beyond that, we need to know.
Sepulvado: So I do want to just confirm, so that's forensic financial investigators. That's important because of the president's potential financial ties as you just laid out. One of the questions that was asked of the president I'm going to ask you: Do you believe it's possible that President Trump is an agent, or somehow actor, for Russia?