DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene in Culver City, Calif. And we have a California congressman on the line with us, it is Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. That committee has just announced it will launch an investigation into Russian aggression including cyberattacks against the United States. Congressman, good morning and welcome back to the program.
ADAM SCHIFF: Good morning, good to be with you.
GREENE: So the intelligence agencies have said pretty firmly that Russia hacked, that Russia tried to influence a U.S. election. What more is there to learn? What are you looking for here?
SCHIFF: There's actually a great deal to learn. We have a good basis in the report that the intelligence community put out, but we want to know the details of just what the Russians did, every vector they've used to attack our democracy. They've used media platforms, they've used obviously hacking, the dumping of documents. We want to make sure to investigate whether there were any connections, direct connections or communications with the campaigns, whether any financial transactions - the whole range of what might have taken place, some of which we certainly know. But we want to know the how of it, we want to know more about the why of it. We also want to examine the U.S. government's response and be self-critical about whether we acted the way we should, what improvements we need to make in our defenses.
GREENE: Do you know much more than we do? You said all the way back in September that based on briefings you had gotten, you concluded that Russian intelligence agencies had made a concerted effort to influence the U.S. election. You were out there ahead of the Obama administration. I mean, did you know a lot more? Do you know a lot more?
SCHIFF: Well, I do know some more. Sen. Feinstein and I made that attribution, as you say, in September because...
GREENE: Dianne Feinstein of California, yeah.
SCHIFF: We were convinced that the Russians were behind this, that they were trying to interfere in our election, and we thought the American people really needed to know that. We are part of - or were, Sen. Feinstein has moved on to be ranking on the Judiciary Committee now - but we are a part of the Gang of Eight and so we get the most classified briefings from the intelligence community.
So yes, there's certainly nonpublic things that we're aware of, as well as even classified things that the rest of Congress is not briefed into. But we thought that information was very important that it not be withheld prior to the election, and we were pushing the administration to do attribution. Ultimately they did, but we felt that it was so important that we went out ahead of the intelligence community making that attribution.
GREENE: You talk about the Gang of Eight and people who receive briefings that are heavily classified, the Republican chair of the committee you're on, Devin Nunes. I mean, you're saying that there is a bipartisan group that knows more potentially about President Trump and potential ties between him, his campaign and Russia?
SCHIFF: Well. What I'm saying is that we are certainly privy to classified information that goes into a lot of the details as well as what the sources of information were that made the basis of that public report that was made available just a few weeks ago.
GREENE: You and your Republican colleague Congressman Nunez said in a statement that you'll be looking at the 2016 election including, quote, "any links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns." That is very delicate language there, but are you talking about President Trump?
SCHIFF: Well, yes, and certainly we would explore any links between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. We're not going to leave it there if there were any kind of communications or interactions with the Clinton campaign, we will look at that, too. But you're right, it is enormously fraught politically. After all, we're exploring a potential connection between a foreign adversarial power and one of the major presidential campaigns or both of them. So, yes, it's a very politically delicate task to talk about, but frankly we are committed and the chairman has said he is committed as well to following the evidence wherever it may lead, and so we have to pursue I think any credible allegation.
GREENE: Are you suspicious that there's a tie between Hillary Clinton's campaign and Russia, is what you're suggesting?
SCHIFF: No, not at all. But what we are saying is that we don't want to foreclose any possibilities. We don't want to say that this investigation is solely about the Trump campaign. You know, there were - there have been allegations that the Russians tried to obtain compromising material on both presidential candidates. So we don't want to exclude any possibility, but clearly there have been a number of very public allegations concerning the Trump campaign.
GREENE: OK. That's Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee joining us via Skype. Congressman, thanks so much.
SCHIFF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.