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Rep. Adam Schiff On Manafort Indictment: 'This Is No Small Fish'


For more on this, we go now to the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, California Democrat Adam Schiff. Congressman, thanks so much for being here.

ADAM SCHIFF: It's my pleasure.

MARTIN: What is your reaction to the news this morning that Paul Manafort has turned himself into the FBI?

SCHIFF: Well, it's not a complete surprise and not even really that much of a surprise. He had been telling people that he expected to be indicted, that he'd been told he had been indicted. So it was really a question of time. But it's a key development. This is no small fish. This is the campaign manager for the Trump campaign at the pivotal time in which the Russians approached the campaign and offered help in the form of derogatory information about Secretary Clinton. And the emails start being dumped. So he's a pivotal character. And if he decides to cooperate, we could learn a lot more.

MARTIN: What can you tell us, if anything, about the other man who was also reportedly charged today, Rick Gates?

SCHIFF: Gates was a longtime partner of Manafort. So Gates would have a lot of knowledge, as well, about what I assume are some of the allegations in the indictment. We haven't seen the indictment yet. But assuming that it covers his work in the Ukraine - both of their work in Ukraine - they did work for a pro-Russia party - at least Mr. Manafort did. And there are multiple allegations that have been publicly reported that Ukraine and Russian interests laundered money for Mr. Manafort or with Mr. Manafort.

So Mr. Gates would know a lot about that and, evidently, at least from Mr. Mueller's perspective, was involved in that. Or if he was interviewed and wasn't honest about it, it could be part of the indictment, as well. But at this point, this is someone who would know a great deal about Mr. Manafort's business activities, as well as, potentially, the campaign.

MARTIN: Well, there have been many questions about Manafort's business activities. And as you know, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has said he has a broad mandate. This investigation is starting out - the central question is possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia. But they are - they're uncovering all kinds of things. They are not limited to that central question. If it ends up that Paul Manafort is being charged, indicted on something that has nothing to do with the Russia investigation, be that tax fraud or tax evasion, does that complicate your efforts on the House intel committee, investigating the possible Russia links to the Trump campaign?

SCHIFF: The only degree that complicates our efforts is we wanted Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates to come before our committee and testify. I have to imagine now that they're the subject of charges they would take the Fifth. So it does impact us in that respect. But it also impacts us if he decides to cooperate - if either one of them decides cooperate and shed light on what happened to the campaign. I would imagine these charges are not unrelated to the Russian investigation. They certainly have arisen from it.

But remember, Manafort was at that pivotal meeting in which the Russians were approaching him and Jared Kushner and the president's son through intermediaries, offering information. But also Manafort, according to The Washington Post, was, through emails, offering information to the Russians through a very important oligarch named Oleg Deripaska, who is very close to Putin. He was offering information about his own campaign in exchange for money, money that he believed was due him for work in Ukraine.

So what information was he offering the Russians? You have to think it may very well have involved sanctions on Russia. That was their top priority - getting rid of any sanctions - Magnitsky sanctions or the sanctions over their invasion of Ukraine. So he could tell us a great deal about the flow of information to and from the Trump campaign in the direction of the Kremlin. And that could be key to our investigation.

MARTIN: And, again, we should just emphasize we don't know the nature of the charges. We don't know. We haven't seen the indictment at this point. We only know that Paul Manafort was requested to turn himself into authorities, and he's done so this morning. What does it tell us about the pace of the investigation? Are we like - is this is beginning of the road or the end of the road?

SCHIFF: I don't think we can say. But, you know, a lot of people are speculating that he would go after small fish first. These are not small fish. This is the campaign manager who was in central position at the time that the Russians were intervening on Mr. Trump's behalf. So it does appear that he has moved very quickly, that he is - understands that there's a sense of urgency about his task but also that he feels that the information that Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates could provide might be central to understanding what Americans are really interested in ultimately getting at. And that is, was there some level of cooperation or coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians while they were violating our sovereignty and interfering in our affairs?

MARTIN: Is there a chance we will never know the answer to that question?

SCHIFF: You know, there's certainly a chance that we won't know the full dimensions of the interactions between the campaign and the Russians. The Russians, obviously, are not going to cooperate with us in any way, shape or form. And they're beyond the jurisdiction of our subpoena power. So there may very well be things that we don't learn or don't learn for a long time and then only come out later on by virtue of our intelligence gathering or through other mechanisms. So that is certainly possible. It's also possible, frankly - and this is something I've raised with the Justice Department - the things that Bob Mueller uncovers - he doesn't share with us. And they don't result in indictment. And that means that our report to the public may not be as complete as it should. And that's an issue we're going to have to work through.

MARTIN: California Democrat Adam Schiff, the ranking member on the House intelligence committee, thanks for your time this morning.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

MARTIN: And we should note for you that I spoke with Congressman Schiff just moments ago. It was, however, before we got this news of the indictments. We now have clarity about what Paul Manafort has been indicted with. The indictment contains 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principle. And the list goes on. I'm in the studio with NPR's Ryan Lucas. Ryan, Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for Donald Trump, now being indicted. What does this mean for how the investigation led by Robert Mueller proceeds?

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Well, I think we're either going to go in the direction of - this is directly related to the question of Russian collusion. It's hard to see right now. I haven't had a chance to read the indictment in full. The money laundering - it looks like it's definitely something that could tie back into a lot of the business dealings that he had perhaps in Ukraine. I think that we're just going to have to take a closer look at what has come out in the past couple of minutes. And then we'll have a much firmer read on what's going on.

MARTIN: We do have some clarity but still many more questions. Paul Manafort has been - has turned himself in to the FBI. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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