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ISIS Lauds Concert Attack, Lawmakers Interested In Flynn's Documents


We're going to turn now to Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. He's the ranking member on the House intelligence committee. He joins us this morning on Skype. Congressman, thanks for being with us again.

ADAM SCHIFF: Thank you. It's good to be with you.

MARTIN: We're going to turn to the latest in the Russia investigation in a moment, but first, what are you making of the news that we're hearing and seeing out of Manchester this morning?

SCHIFF: Well, one of the things that we're wondering about is whether this was a response to the call by ISIS, which is losing ground in Iraq and Syria, to lash out in attacks on foreign soil. There's certainly a lot of celebrating online by ISIS, but they often wait until the attacker is killed to claim responsibility, in part maybe because the attacker once dead can't deny their affiliation.

But we don't yet know the identity of the attackers. We're still trying to determine and help our British allies with any information we can. Obviously, their priority right now is to make sure there aren't any other suspects still at large.

MARTIN: I want to pivot now to the investigations into Russian election meddling happening on Capitol Hill. Lawyers for the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, said he is going to plead the Fifth. He is not going to hand over documents that had been subpoenaed. Does that mean you and your committee can't call him to testify?

SCHIFF: Well, I think there are two issues. There's the issue of whether he would still be required to turn over some documents even though he is taking the Fifth. And then there's the issue of whether we would be prepared to give him any immunity. That constitutional privilege doesn't apply to all the documents, so it may be necessary to either negotiate or litigate an answer to what he would have to turn over without immunity.

We wouldn't want to even consider immunity, I think, until we've explored every other way to get the information that we need and certainly not without a detailed proffer from Mr. Flynn about what he would have to say if he was given immunity, as well as a long conversation with now Bob Mueller to find out, what are the prosecutorial equities here? What will we be foreclosing?

And what are the, you know, relative merits of allowing the Justice Department potentially to go forward? Is that more important than any information we would glean in our investigation? So those are the kind of questions that we're going to have to be asking.

MARTIN: So this gets to something I think a lot of people are wondering. What's the hierarchy of these investigations? You just mentioned that your committee, you have to have conversations with Robert Mueller. He's the special counsel taking the reins on the FBI investigation. How do you prevent redundancies? I mean, does the FBI investigation take precedence over yours and other congressional inquiries?

SCHIFF: I don't think you can say definitively or categorically that one investigation takes precedence over the other. Obviously, the investigation that Bob Mueller is doing may focus on whether U.S. laws were violated, whether people should be brought to justice in terms of prosecution. That may be where he ends up. We don't know at this point. Our equities are somewhat different.

We need to know also about any involvement of U.S. persons, but we also need to craft a response and figure out, how do we prevent this from happening again? How do we mitigate the chances that the Russians or others could interfere? And we have to make a report to the public, which Bob Muller doesn't have to do. So most of what the public learns about what took place here will come from the Congress, and it may be very case specific.

In the case of Michael Flynn, we may decide that the Justice Department has more of an equity here than we do. That is their work is more important because we're likely to gain little information from Mr. Flynn, or we might decide our equity is greater. But you can't say, I think, on the whole that one is more important and therefore always must give way to the other.

MARTIN: I want to ask you about another revelation. Yesterday, The Washington Post reported that the president asked the director of national security - I'm sorry, the director of the National Security Agency, the NSA, and the director of National Intelligence to publicly deny any evidence of collusion with the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. This is Dan Coats, the DNI, and Mike Rogers, a former head of the NSA. Do you plan to ask either of them to testify?

SCHIFF: I think we should. Unfortunately, the scope of what we have to review continues to broaden, so I think we need to bring Director Comey back in. And I think he's now scheduled to appear first before the Senate. And we may need to bring these other two directors in as well to see whether the president was leaning on them to push back against a narrative that he didn't like.

And even more troubling, although it was less prominent in that Washington Post report, is the suggestion that the president's White House staff were asking personnel at those two agencies you mentioned to weigh in with Director Comey and urge him to drop the Michael Flynn investigation. That, to me, is an even more serious allegation, and both of those allegations Congress will need to get to the bottom of.

MARTIN: Congressman Adam Schiff. He's the ranking member of the House intelligence committee. Thanks so much.

SCHIFF: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.