Top Intel Dem: Russia meeting is 'clear evidence' of collusion, path to 'serious crime'


Rep. Adam Schiff told ABC News that the meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives was "about as clear of evidence you could find" of their intention to collude with Russia and potentially manipulate our election.

In a damning assessment, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the highest ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that the clandestine Trump Tower meeting between the Donald Trump presidential campaign and Russian operatives demonstrates "about as clear of evidence you could find of intent by the campaign to collude with the Russians."

He added that, if the Trump team offered to trade campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton for Russian sanctions relief, it would be a "serious crime."

The Trump administration has been reeling from the exposure of the meeting that was put together by Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, who was then the chairman of the campaign. Multiple Russian operatives were in attendance, and the official Trump line has continued to morph as new details have emerged.

Devastating polling shows that 63 percent of Americans believe it was inappropriate for the Trump campaign to meet with the Russians. 6 in 10 believe Russia was trying to influence the presidential campaign, and 67 percent believe the Trump campaign was in on that effort.

In his appearance on ABC's This Week, Schiff walked host Jonathan Karl through the issue, pointing out that Trump privately and publicly requested "dirt" on Clinton from Russians, and that if they did so to relieve sanctions, the exchange would be evidence of criminal activity.

SCHIFF: And of course, the president very publicly encouraged Russia to do exactly what Don Jr. was encouraging Russia to do privately, that is, 'Give us the dirt on Hillary Clinton.' And every time there was dirt released in the form of stolen emails, the president applauded it very publicly.

So, the question that we've had, among others, is: Was the campaign doing privately what the president was urging publicly? And here you have now, evidence in black and white that yes, the campaign was encouraging the Russians to give them dirt. And the fact that this was done through intermediaries is just how the Russians operate.

KARL: But if we look at this Trump Tower meeting — and certainly it's problematic and the shifting explanations of it are problematic — but the bottom line, is there any evidence whatsoever tying this meeting or that Russian lawyer to the centerpiece of this Russian influence campaign, which was the hack of the DNC, the hack of the Clinton campaign emails? Is there anything whatsoever tying this meeting to that activity by the Russians?

SCHIFF: Well, you know, it is certainly tied in the sense that this is about as clear evidence you could find of intent by the campaign to collude with the Russians, to get useful information from the Russians.

KARL: A willingness to accept we see from the president's son, but we don't see anything —

SCHIFF: More than that, though — a willingness not only to accept, but to indicate to Russia what the best timing was. Of course, Don Jr. says in the emails 'Late summer.' And what do we know about late summer? That's when the Russians start dumping this information.

To accept the attorney's representation that no crime was committed here, you have to accept Don Jr.'s representations. If they went into the meeting, and here — they want something, they want information from the Russians; the Russians want something, they want repeal of the sanctions law, the Magnitsky Law. If there's any kind of understanding that comes out of that meeting — 'You get us the dirt, you start leaking dirt on Hillary Clinton, and we will look favorably on repealing the Magnitsky Act' — that is a very serious crime.

The Trump administration is now actively involved in an effort to weaken the sanctions imposed on Russia for their election interference, echoing the outcome of the scenario discussed by Schiff.

The line from the Trump team has evolved from denying any Russian contact to now, stunningly, trying to blame the Secret Service for allowing the meeting to go forward, while insisting that nothing criminal occurred.

They never had much credibility to begin with, but it has now completely been squandered. Americans need to know what crimes were committed against them and their democracy.