Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said Wednesday that the panel had seen an “abundance” of evidence of collusion with Russia and obstruction by Donald Trump’s campaign and administration that is not yet public.
Speaking to reporters in Washington, Schiff said a lot of information was already in the public domain that pointed to extensive contacts between the Trump campaign team and the Kremlin, and later efforts by the Trump entourage to cover up those contacts. But Schiff said there was much more to come out.
He said: “There is certainly an abundance of non-public information that we’ve gathered in the investigation. And I think some of that non-public evidence is evidence on the issue of collusion and some … on the issue of obstruction.”
Schiff, from California, added on Wednesday that the intelligence committee had also seen evidence pointing towards money laundering involving Trump’s circle, but had been hindered by the partisan deadlock that has paralysed its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
He said: “It is a tried and true maxim. As a former prosecutor, you follow the money. We have not been able to adequately follow the money. And I think the allegations on money laundering are credible enough that we ought to, in the exercise of due diligence, see if this was one of the other vectors of the Russian active measures campaign.”
He added: “We know that in other places they use money laundering as a way of entangling people, as a way of compromising people. To me that is far more potentially compromising than any salacious video would be.”
This refers to the possible existence of a compromising video of Trump in Moscow, allegedly held by Russian intelligence and first referenced last year in the dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele.
Schiff did not name names in relation to money laundering allegations. Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and a business associate, Rick Gates, denied money laundering and other charges last year in a federal court in Washington, on the same day it emerged that former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to lying to FBI investigators over contact with people apparently linked to the Russian government.
Those indictments were the first issued by Robert Mueller since he was appointed special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion by members of the Trump campaign.
Schiff was speaking on Wednesday just a day after US intelligence chiefs testified that Russia would attempt to disrupt and influence this year’s midterm congressional elections. He outlined his recommendations on protecting the integrity of the vote.
“What we really need is a fast response from the social media companies when they identify foreign meddling. We also need to make sure that the social media companies get timely information from the intel[ligence] community when the intel community has identified actors that are abusing their platforms,” Schiff said.
Most of all, he argued, it required political will from the White House, in light of Tuesday’s testimony that intelligence chiefs have been given no orders from the presidency on a strategy to counter Russian interference.
“Probably the most significant thing that we can do to protect ourselves in 2018 requires a couple of things. It requires the commander in chief to decide this is a priority and to instruct all of its relevant cabinet officials to develop a game plan to protect against foreign interference in our elections,” Schiff said. “It requires that we develop a nonpartisan, bipartisan consensus that if a foreign power meddles again we will all reject their interference no matter who it helps or who it hurts.”
Schiff is engaged in a battle of wits with the committee’s Republican chair, Devin Nunes, who last year stepped aside from the Russia investigation but has been increasingly involved, most recently by releasing a memo alleging wrongdoing by FBI investigators.
This article was written by Julian Borger in Washington, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 14th February 2018 19.37 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010