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House Intelligence Committee Plans To Talk To More Trump Associates

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Democrats do not seem to be holding back. They are making some explosive allegations about President Trump. Here's California Congressman Adam Schiff on CBS "Face The Nation." He chairs the House Intelligence Committee.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FACE THE NATION")

ADAM SCHIFF: We are certainly looking deep into the set of issues around Moscow Trump Tower. We're also looking at persistent allegations that the Russians have been laundering money through the Trump Organization. I don't know that that's true, but if it is, again, it's a profound compromise in this president.

GREENE: Democrats look emboldened now after last week's testimony from Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. The intelligence committee is just one of the panels looking into the president, and Congressman Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois, is on the Intelligence Committee.

He joins us now from Chicago. Good morning, Congressman.

MIKE QUIGLEY: Good morning. Thanks for having me on.

GREENE: Well, thanks for coming on. Do you have evidence that the Russians were laundering money through the Trump Organization?

QUIGLEY: Well, here's what we know. Deutsche Bank was probably the only - but certainly one of the few banks - willing to do business with Trump Organization in the decade prior to his becoming president of the United States.

Number two, Deutsche Bank had to pay over $600 million in fines and penalties for laundering money for the Russians that came out of New York state. And I went to Cyprus to investigate such things over a year ago. And that part of the investigation, as part of the entire House Select Committee on Intelligence investigation, was tainted and stopped by my Republican colleagues. So...

GREENE: But it sounds like you're not quite there. I mean, you're not quite at a point where you could say Russians are laundering money through - through the Trump Organization, I mean, and tying this to the president.

QUIGLEY: Oh, certainly. I mean, and, look, there are a lot of concerns that we have about financial conflicts with the Trump administration that we - simply didn't get to the final analysis of. Again...

GREENE: Well, you're about to you're about to start calling witnesses. I mean, you're going to be talking to Felix Sater. He's a former business associate of the president, has some alleged ties to organized crime, we should say. I mean, what - what specifically are you hoping to hear from him as you look into these issues?

QUIGLEY: It's an expansion of what we've learned from Mr. Cohen about Trump Tower Moscow in particular. And, look, Mr. Cohen spoke publicly, and that was valuable, as it always is. But he also spoke to the intel committee in secret for a day, and he's coming back next Wednesday.

I think the two of them were instrumental - instrumental in moving this project forward, and we're now learning that that project went forward past Election Day. So here they were talking about relief of sanctions - the president United States - for the Russians at the exact same time they were seeking to forge a financial deal with this foreign adversary.

The bigger picture in all these investigations is this. Sure, we want to know what the Russians did and whether there was a conspiracy to work with them. I think what's more important is, was our national policy and our international security policy impacted by these decisions, not just about Trump Tower Moscow, but Paul Manafort meeting with the Russians discussing a Ukraine peace plan, which would be very friendly to the Russians?

GREENE: But just to be clear, I mean, these are things that you're suggesting you want to look into. But - but so far, I mean, this is just all about timing. You have no concrete evidence at this point that - that the president's business dealings in Moscow may have somehow been tied to decisions that he made in office.

QUIGLEY: I think it's very hard to ignore the fact that he was using President Putin's talking points on the United Nations and NATO at the same time he was talking about relief from sanctions. We're very well aware of the president's Helsinki posture and how he has taken the word of President Putin over the intelligence community over what the Russians did.

So it's beyond circumstantial evidence that the president seems to have been compromised by this. We need to know the exact details. It hasn't been easy because we weren't in the majority. And this is clearly the most opaque administration in American history.

GREENE: And you are right. Your party is running the show now in the House. And I just want to ask you, I mean, are you concerned that too many investigations will crowd out any chance for your party to - to formulate an agenda to present to the American people? I mean, is there a risk in Americans thinking the Democrats are spending too much time investigating and not enough on policy-making?

QUIGLEY: I think it comes from us clearly defining what's going forward and how we are coordinating. But we can do more than one thing at a time, clearly demonstrated by the most important investigation previous to this, Watergate.

GREENE: You think this is as important as Watergate. You feel like you know enough at this point to say something like that.

QUIGLEY: This is more important than Watergate because it involves a foreign adversary and, I believe, the very, really, real likelihood that the president of the United States, to an extent, conspired with the Russians to attack our democratic process.

GREENE: All right, and you'll have much time to investigate all of that. Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois, a Democrat, thanks so much for your time this morning. We appreciate it.

QUIGLEY: Thank you. Anytime.

GREENE: I want to turn to NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley, who's been listening in. Scott, what stood out to you there?

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Well, as you point out, David, the intelligence committee has perhaps the most overlap here with the Robert Mueller investigation. But this is just one of numerous investigations that the now Democratic-led House is going to be conducting of the president.

We've got the oversight committee that's going to be following up on a lot of tantalizing threads that were opened up by Michael Cohen's testimony last week. And this morning - earlier this morning, we heard from Congressman Nadler about investigations that the judiciary committee is undertaking.

So there are going to be a lot of probes, a lot more scrutiny from the Democratic House than the president has faced during his first two years in office when the House was in Republican hands.

GREENE: You mentioned Jerrold Nadler, the Democrat who chairs the judiciary committee. I mean, it seems like Democrats - I mean, they're saying they don't have enough yet, not even close, to explore impeachment. But they seem to be using that word much more freely than they used to.

What is that political calculation? I mean, have they decided that they want these investigations to really dominate over any sort of legislative agenda?

HORSLEY: No, I think they are kind of walking a tightrope. They understand that impeachment is a political process and that in order to go down that road, they'd have to persuade a lot of Republicans. That's a very tall order. They're not there yet.

On the other hand, they are trying to satisfy cries from those on the left who want more rigorous oversight and who don't want to take impeachment off the table.

GREENE: NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley this morning. Thanks, Scott.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.